Warner Brothers 9-46244-2
review by Art Menius
Unlike most of his contemporary Nashville colleagues, David Ball checks in on his new Warner Brothers CD, Starlite Lounge, with almost entirely original material. He had a hand in composing all but one song on the disc. I guess it shows how narrow the divide between major label country music performers and singer-songwriters on indies has become.
An emerging country artist at forty-something, Ball also brings a touch more than average of respect for classic honky-tonk music. His sound is today, but still reflective of roots with fiddles and steel guitar breaks. Ball possesses a big, open Texas voice that echoes hundreds of honky-tonkers that preceded him. The listener can tell that he is no failed rocker marketed as country, and that’s a compliment in my book.
As a writer, Ball comes across well a number of times. “Circle of Friends,” a happy adult romance, and “No More Lonely,” a sad one, ring true to life. “Bad Day For The Blues” turns conceits on their heads in the style of the best country music writing. “I’ll Never Make It Through This Fall” proves killer, Haggard quality material:
“There’s nothing left to keep me going
This time my back’s against the wall
I’ve made it through a lot of winters,
But I’ll never make it through this fall.”
At other times, however, Ball seems to churn out one more Nashville love song. That’s especially true for the one track in which he has no writing involvement, the lead-off “Hangin’ In and Hangin’ On.” This one sounds written self-consciously to be a hit and indicates a hedging of bets by Warners that perhaps Ball’s own work won’t jump of the charts. But even some of his own songs, such as the bland “If You’d Like Some Lovin’” (“If you’d like some lovin’/I’ve got all you’ll ever need./If you’d like some lovin’/You’ll find it here with me”), miss the mark altogether.
Needless to say, the production and playing values are high. This is today’s country music industry, sounding good ranks far ahead of being good. But David Ball is good – he exhibits genuine talent as a singer and composer with enough roots and grit to keep things interesting. No telling what he could do creatively on an independent label where he could be in control.