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Ball encounters no problems on soph CD

By Jeffrey B. Remz, March 1997

The second time around has proven good for David Ball in more ways than one.

Not only has he found a home on his second record label after an ill-fated stint elsewhere in the late '80's, but the man behind "Thinkin' Problem" just released his second album, "Starlite Lounge," and appears right on track to avoid the sophomore slump.

The music is rooted in the '50's and '60's honky tonk and spare sounding country, but sounds alive for the '90's.

"I've got these new songs, and I'm really interested in getting in the studio and putting the great track to them, " Ball says from a tour stop someplace in Michigan, explaining his urge to record the new album. "Sometimes I know what I am wanting, and sometimes I let it evolve."

Ball, a South Carolina native, said he thinks there are differences between the two discs. "The songs were just a little bit more mature sounding, which I liked. Therefore, I wanted to build a record around that."

"They were just a little bit wiser," Ball says, "I was a little bit older."

From a lyrical standpoint, Ball's debut was a bit more blue about the subjects of love with titles such as "Down at the Bottom of a Broken Heart" and "What Do You Want With His Love" making it pretty clear.

On "Starlite Lounge," a more optimistic tone is set. The first single, "Circle of Friends," is about a man's relationship with an uptown girl. The bouncy "Bad Day for the Blues" says goodbye to misery.

Ball says he thought his writing was more direct. On "If You'd Like Some Lovin'," Ball says, "there's no metaphor to it."

"The lyric of the song just comes right out and says it," Ball says. "That's something I've been trying to do and aspire to do as a writer. It's interesting."

Ball is quick to point out that this is not necessarily a happy record.

To wit, "I'll Never Make It Through This Fall," a clever use of seasons to get at the despair of love. Ball calls it "maybe one of the lowest places I've ever written...It just kind of stretches the boundaries from my first album. "

"I just write and put them down," Ball says of his songs. "It's just kind of up to the listener. I don't think listeners will do much comparing (of the albums)."

While the songs all have some truth to them, the closing "The Bottle That Pours the Wine" was one of the few that is 100-percent true. The song is about a musician heading for the tour bus after another one night stand and being approached by someone trying to emulate him, asking a question about writing.

Ball sings, "I'm just a bottle that pours the wine/A fragile vessel for melody and rhyme/Put me on the pedestal I'll fall and shatter every time/'Cause I'm just the bottle that pours the wine."

In fact, alcohol pops up in a number of songs.

"I'd gotten with Allen Shamblin (of "Thinkin' Problem" fame)," Ball says. "He was very much interested in what it's like out there on the road and playing. I was telling him what a big impact we had with 'Thinkin' Problem' right out of the chute. People really didn't know who I was. People were coming up (to me). A 16-year old kid comes up two hours after a concert is over after I've signed autographs and met with fans. Here comes this guy running across the parking lot."

"I've had that incident happen 10, 15 times," Ball says. "We were just kind of talking about it, and out of the conversation evolved that song."

Not everything is so complex when it comes to writing. Ball says one of his favorites is "I've Got My Baby on My Mind."

"Whenever you sit down to write a song, you like to be done with it, finished with it and happy with it in a reasonable amount of time," Ball says. "Some of them won't just leave you alone, and you hammer on it for months. It just kind of popped out. It was pretty much written in a couple of hours."

That night, Ball made a live demo of the tape with his band.

Most of Ball's songs are done with other writers , "just however really I can pull one together. Collaboration is great when it works...Writing myself is a slower process. I'm just much more critical."

"I try to write simple, catchy tunes," Ball says. "That's what I like."

Ball got the musical bug while in high school. He heard Walter Hyatt and Champ Hood play coffeehouses with acoustic guitars and a merging of their voices.

"They were just doing every kind of music," Ball said. "Walter had this incredible repertoire. They were doing all kinds of stuff. I just kind of hung around and started bugging them."

A few months later, Ball was at Hyatt's house where he found a string bass. "I could play guitar pretty good, but I started fooling around with that string bass," Ball says. "We kind of had the Peter Paul & Mary format, although we were more like Doc Watson."

While still in high school, Ball toured with Uncle Walt's Band. "That's when I pretty much decided to do music for a living," Ball says, alluding to his love of music and travel.

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