Riding with David Ball – December 2001
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Riding with David Ball  Print

By Jeffrey B. Remz, December 2001

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The reason, of course, is the easy going "Riding With Private Malone." The song describes a guy with $1,000 in his pocket, looking to buy a car. He never even drives it, but takes a chance on a 1966 Corvette. Looking around the glove compartment, he finds a note from Andrew Malone, who said "if you're reading this, then I didn't make it home" from Viet Nam. Private Malone then serves as the angel for the owner, saving his life one day in a bad accident.

One day while riding in the car with Newton, Ball says, "he told me about this song. I was intrigued, man. I thought what a unique story. All they had so far is a guy who buys a used car, and there's a note in a glove box."

The story actually has some truth behind it. Newton's first cousin, Jeff, served in Viet Nam and survived the war. But on his very first day back home, he was killed in a car wreck.

Newton wrote the song with Thom Shepherd. "They put a lot of heart and soul in this song. When I heard it, I heard Thom Shepherd play it live on the radio one night, and I told Wood to give me a copy of it. Wood said, 'Shoot man, why do you want this thing?' I said I want to learn it."

"Wood thought the record was done," he says. "I'd been looking for a story song for a long time. I just thought it was one of the best songs I'd ever heard."

"I'm a fan of good songwriting. Number one, bam, it was very well written. I was familiar with all the ingredients of the song, but I had never heard it put together. It wasn't a rehashing of the SOS. It was something new. The message of the song - the Viet Nam war ended on the wrong foot. The country was divided, and all the soldiers who had fought over there had gotten a raw deal. Here's Private Malone coming along. It just fills you with pride whether you were for the war or against the war. It just got to me. It put chills on me."

"The song had been out for three weeks, and we had been getting an overwhelming response to the song."

After Sept. 11, "unity in America became a priority after that. This song has the ability to do that. I hope it will always be able to do that. It's an American song. It tells an important American story. It's kind of modern day legend."

Of course, one song does not make up an entire album.

Ball tackled Count Basie's "Linger Awhile" and penned the lead-off and title track with Kostas. "Amigo" has a Tex-Mex swing feel to it.

"That was one of the things that got me going back into the studio to make a record," Ball says of the song. "It's a great tune. It's of course a nod to Bob Wills and to swing music in general. I'm a huge fan of guitar playing - that's of anybody who can pick up a guitar and play it. This is song is a tribute to the guitar and what it can do for you."

Ball says he's been into swing a long time, only his albums don't necessarily show it. The album also contains the instrumental "New Shiner Polka," also a swing composition.

"My very first album...had what I call disguise swing ("Honky Tonk Healin" and "Down at the Bottom of a Broken Heart") - but we couldn't present it for one reason or another in a swing setting. I wasn't too concerned about what anybody what would have thought of this record. I made a record that I'd like and my fans would like."

And now Ball apparently has a lot of fans.

"I don't tend to make my records sound all alike. I'm trying to get people come with me. I think this record is coming along when radio needs me. It can bring back some listeners and some listeners."

"I want country music to have its place. You have all these huge rock and rollers who like country music, but they won't listen to country radio. It doesn't take a genius to (understand) that."

"The only difference was this record was more of a homemade (record) which is where I was comfortable being," says Ball. "This is just a bunch of friends putting this together. We had time to kill. We enjoyed ourselves. It wasn't work. This was a labor of love. It's just a little more organized. We weren't really going for radio. In the back of my mind, it's more important to have some emotion than to spend all day working on drum sounds."

Ball indicates the timing may be right for him and DualTone thanks to a certain Private Malone.

"Here are two guys from Arista who came out of of a big company just like me. They wanted to do something on their own terms. They knew the problems with major labels. They act and move so slowly with things that it's frustrating. (They) wanted a company that could act quickly on stuff."

"This is the birth of an independent record label, and it happens (when) the majors are downsizing. You got so much music out there, and so much of it sounds alike. As far as a business goes, I guess the point is sell some records. And, of course, they're doing it."

"The great thing about the music business is that anything can happen. That's the thing I love about this. You can knock it out of the park if you get the right pitch. If everything comes together."

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