It takes nothing away from her fine studio albums to note that Marcia Ball is best heard onstage, in front of a live audience, taking her Louisiana R&B and soul from a stomp to the swamp and back. Live! Down The Road burns down Ball favorites old and new to accomplish just that with dancehall power and majesty, and no small amount of sly humor; it's one of the most consistent, good-timing live albums in some time.
Whether second-lining the carnival anthem "La Ti Da", motorvatin' through "Down The Road", sassing out "Louella" or heavy-breathing "Every Day Will Be Like A Holiday", Ball's hard-rocking, relentlessly-rolling piano and heart-on-sleeve vocals don't take much of a breather through the entire set. Between Pat Boyack's jumpy, tensile guitar and Brad Andrew's tenor sax, she's got a well-honed road band (augmented sometimes by overdubbed trumpet and bari sax) to pour gas on the fire.
I mean, just listen to the show-closing "Let Me Play With Your Poodle", with Boyack careening from chicken-pickin' to Chuck Berry licks and the horns pounding out punctuation, and try to tell me this woman doesn't know her messaround from her wang dang doodle -- and love them both alike.