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Waxed - Record Review from Issue #55 Jan-Feb 2005

David Ball

Freewheeler (Arcaro / Wildcatter)

This disc’s title comes from the elegant, Jesse Winchester-penned set-closer, but it also describes the uncanny facility with which David Ball glides across, and merges, genres and eras.

The lone surviving member of the seminal South Carolina roots trio Uncle Walt’s Band, Ball has straddled Austin and Nashville over the years, interspersing life on the eclectic fringes with occasional excursions into country’s mainstream. The constant through it all has been an immaculate, elastic tenor voice capable of classic swoops and flourishes.

His 1994 Warner/Reprise solo debut, Thinkin’ Problem, launched three #1 hits, yet subsequent label restructuring left this uncompromising artist on his own. Undaunted, Ball has followed up with an unbroken string of strong and varied releases for smaller labels, the last of which (2001′s Amigo) scored a coup for Dualtone when its sentimental “Riding With Private Malone” spent weeks high on the country charts, topping out at #2.

Freewheeler is his first long-player since Amigo, and despite another label switch, he’s wisely retained producer Wood Newton and the flexible, muscular core studio band of guitarist Billy Panda, bassist Dan Frizsell and drummer Vince Barranco.

Freewheeler comes equipped with a handful of ready-made country hits, but whether they strike or not, the disc plays like an old roadside jukebox, with weepers, rowdy stompers, a taste of the bayou, and — a house specialty — Ball’s original forays into Ricky Nelson/Roy Orbison-styled rock ‘n’ roll ballads. Altogether straight-ahead, cool and sturdy.

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Originally Featured in Issue #55 Jan-Feb 2005

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