Chad Ball | Two Trips to Bellingham

Butte musician's third effort is introspective and heartfelt

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Chad Ball: Two Trips to BellinghamButte songwriter/guitarist Chad Ball’s third effort, Two Trips to Bellingham, is more introspective than his other creations, but just as heartfelt. He says, “It’s scary writing about your own imperfections and mistakes that you’ve made in your life.”

Guests on this journey include Sara Zora, violin and backing vocals; Michael Paul Masters, piano and mandolin; Scott Gibson, Dobro; Logan Dudding, drums; Rob McClain, bass; and Keira Arps, backing vocals. Ball does all the guitar work, and besides possessing a fluid playing style, he can make his engaging baritone voice do pretty much what he wants.

The 11 originals delve into politics, relationships, experiences on the road, and family history. The countryfied “Let What’s Gone Go” is about his recently-passed grandmother, who lived to be 100. “Better Days” strolls along, delivering a positive message with nice string accompaniment and background woo-oohs. On “Son of the River,” Ball exhibits his great range, swooping up high and letting his voice flutter there.

Then it’s deep down to his bass register for a duet, a country toe-tapper with Heather Lingle called “The Culture.” Flowing fingerboard work underpins “Dozen White Roses,” and “Cold Makes You Lonely” unfolds wistfully. It takes us inside the mind of a traveling troubadour in a nowhere town during a bitter winter, feeling alone, waiting till showtime and thinking too much.

“Borderline,” Ball’s tribute to growing up on the Montana-Idaho line, is sweet and reminiscent. The last piece, a blues number called “Raccoon,” takes a sarcastic look at politicians. It’s perfect for Ball’s voice. “I’ve got a furry tail, I’m diggin’ through your mail,” he growls. It sports a cool guitar riff, too.

Lots of thought-provoking stuff going on here. And though there’s no title tune, Ball promises to reveal the reason for that on a later album. Check out

– Mariss McTucker