Chad Ball | Corduroy Man

New Albums

Butte guitarist and songwriter Chad Ball has just released his second effort, a mixed bag of folk, blues, country and rock. That’s a mouthful, granted, but he pulls it off admirably.

The music veteran’s playing and singing style bears an uncanny resemblance to the late, great Jim Croce. He even sings a tribute to Croce titled, “Ray and the Waiter.” It’s a soft ballad about being offered work if he plays Croce covers, and boy, howdy, can he channel the man.

Ball’s song poems, set in country backwaters, are chock-full of life’s experiences, sung flawlessly in his gravelly, quivering baritone.

He’s accompanied on the album by co-producer Logan Dudding on drums and percussion; his brother, Travis, bass; Michael Paul Masters, piano and keyboards; Sara Zora; violin; Kevin LaFond, steel guitar; and Danny Felix, saxophone. Ball plays a bit of harmonica, too.

“Cold Highway” opens the CD, highlighting his stellar finger-pickin’ and world-weary vocal nuances. A country tune comes next, “Guitar Picker,” with its bluesy, tight production, wherein Ball sings lead and Travis provides harmony. This one has a great guitar riff as well, Ball kickin’ it on both rhythm and lead guitar. Cool!

There’s a regretful aura to “Getting Out of Town” ; it’s got crisp, lean drums and an understated mood. Ball wrote this one for a friend in his old band who died tragically, and it’s contemplative and heartfelt.

Voluptuous guitar licks populate the title tune, “Corduroy Man.” The instrument almost seems too loud compared to Ball’s voice. I say almost, because it really adds texture to the piece.

“Fire in the Hole” sports a light and burbly piano and a subtle ’60s rock beat; Ball’s excellent ear for melody and the song’s brisk and decisive percussion captivate. This one’s about playing music onstage, living and loving it.

There’s a waltzy, soft ballroom feel to Charley Packard’s “Give Me an Old Gal,” one of only two numbers on the CD that Ball didn’t write. “… I don’t wanna sweet thing, talkin’ ‘bout the future; gimme a gal who’s got a past.” He shows his superb vocal control, caressing and crooning each word before adding just the right touch of sandpaper to give the lyric its jaded due. He also adds some sultry guitar work, and a sweltering bit of sax joins the effort. Excellent!

The last snippet on the CD is two verses written by Ball’s father, Pat, who died on the way home from a gig when Chad was young. It fell out of one of his mother’s old gardening books while he was writing this album, so he decided to put it to music. It’s a fitting way to end a well-produced album. There’s lots more great stuff here. Spin this one and see what you think.

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– Mariss McTucker