David Ball,
(Dualtone, 2001)

As Buddy Rich, the great and totally hip jazz drummer, was being wheeled into the operating room after a heart attack, he was asked if he was allergic to anything. "Yes," he said, "Country and western music."

David Ball's latest would have given Buddy hives for sure. It may not do much better for fans of the latest Nashville-produced top-10 either. But I hope to hire David rather than Garth (the Wayne Newton of country music) for my next party. In the meantime, whenever I want to feel good I'll be listening to Ball's latest CD, Amigo. It's a delight all the way through.

David Ball has been performing since the '70s. He almost hit it big in the mid-'90s after earning a Grammy nomination for "Thinkin' Problem," but "Ridin' With Private Malone" from Amigo is the first of his songs to attract much radio play since then.

Ball's voice is sweet and clear with traces of George Jones, Willie Nelson and Dwight Yoakum. The music is mostly Texas swing and honkytonk, but with enough variety in tempo, instrumentation and mood that the album holds interest throughout. Ball wrote or co-authored eight of the 13 tunes.

The lilting and easygoing "Amigo" deserves to be the title track. "Loser Friendly" (by Craft, Newton and Mcgrew) wins for cleverest title. A minor surprise is how well the old pop standard "Linger Awhile" works in this setting. Last time I heard it, Vic Damone was the singer. Not much twang there.

The supporting cast of guitars, fiddles, backup group and rhythm blend beautifully. Spice is added by an occasional yodel, trumpet, harmonica or accordion. Had to have that accordion on Ball's "New Shiner Polka," though even if he adds a clarinet next time, I don't think Frank Yankovic is in any trouble.

If you like western swing or earlier David Ball outings, you'll like this album. It's an authentic feel-good alternative to the manufactured sounding hits coming out of your local C&W radio station. It deserves to earn another Grammy nomination for Ball. Just don't tell Buddy Rich fans I'm hooked.

- Rambles
written by Ron Bierman
published 14 December 2002

Buy it from Amazon.com.