Marcia Ball’s new record is a tribute to her consistency. It shows off what she does best, swinging uptempo grooves, boogie dance numbers, and a fantastic variety of piano playing from Chicago-style blues, driving barrelhouse tunes, and Professor Longhair-esque keyboard runs such as on “We Fell Hard.” Ball pulls off the piano playing with such ease and nonchalance that it is easy to forget how great a player she is.
What distinguishes this record from her previous ones is the attitude behind the songs. These songs come as lessons in their joy and exuberance. She starts off telling people in “That’s How It Goes” that “It’s not the destination / it’s a trip” and “I help you and you help me / That’s the way the world should be,” and continues with the song “Look Before You Leap” where her mother tells her, “You better look before you leap/you might find yourself in way too deep.” However, these do not come off as preachy but more as advice. And then there’s the song “I Heard It All” where she hears her man in the next room begging his wife to take him back over an ominous electric piano. Of course there’s a food metaphor song, “A Little Sugar,” where Ball affirms, “A little sugar makes your day complete / you can keep your mustard greens / just give me those pecan pralines.” Roadside Attractions is great party or road-trip music with a liberal dose of positive attitude in witty turns of phrase and great keyboard work.