Six years is an eternity between records for any artist, but if that's what it takes to write, play and produce an album as solid as David Ball's latest, then maybe it should become an industry standard. It's not that Ball, who's best known for the mid-'90s hit Thinkin' Problem and 2002's Riding With Private Malone, so seamlessly blends swing, Tex-Mex, honky tonk, the occasional ballad and hardcore country. It's more that he and his three-piece band the Pioneer Playboys are absolutely on fire with each and every cut.
On Top of the World is a bluesy honky tonk tale of new love that bubbles with joy amid Troy Cook Jr.'s growling guitar licks. The shout-and answer Country Boy Boogie swings and sways straight from some sweaty '50s roadhouse, then Ball peppers Tulsa and Houston Again with a south-of-the-border flavor.
As solid and diverse as Ball's songwriting is, Ball's spot-on hardcore country tenor never misses a note, mellowing on the tender What'll I Do if I Don't Have You and playfully swirling around Cook's guitar on the steamy opener Hot Water Pipe.
If the longtime veteran only resurfaces with a new release every six years or so, then so be it. An album like "Sparkle City" is well worth the wait.