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David Ball

Thinkin' Problem – 2019 (Omnivore)

Reviewed by Jim Hynes

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CDs by David Ball

Most hard core country fans certainly have heard David Ball's 1994 "Thinkin' Problem," a true honky tonk classic. Ominvore is releasing the album in remastered expanded format with eight bonus tracks, marking its 25th anniversary. So, if by chance you didn't catch it the first time, here's your opportunity to hear a singer, who will remind you of vocalists from country's golden era like George Jones, Ray Price and Merle Haggard. Ball did this at a time when those singers were no longer being frequently played. Ball is most remembered for his huge hit that came later, "Riding with Private Malone," but most are unaware of Ball's beginnings.

Ball had been with Uncle Walt's Band, a seminal county and Americana band that began in North Carolina as a trio with Ball (the primary vocalist), Champ Hood and Walter Hyatt who gained some traction after moving to Austin in the early '80s and broke up after releasing three albums. Ball moved to Nashville and spent most of the '80s looking for the elusive hit. After three singles for RCA failed to ignite a spark, he moved on to Warner Bros. and 1994's "Thinkin' Problem" was the result. The title track was the lead single and became a mega hit. More hits followed - "When The Thought of You Catches Up With Me" and "Look What Followed Me Home" - eventually driving the album to double platinum status and landing Ball with a Male Vocalist of the Year Grammy Award nomination the following year. Those five singles appear here as part of the original 10.

The eight previously unissued tracks include a 1993 demo of "Give Me Back My Heart" alongside a new 2019 recording of "What Do You Want With This Love" and five additional new recordings, on which Ball plays all instruments. The booklet contains vintage photos and remarks from original producer Blake Chancey, Lyle Lovett, Kix Brooks, the Bellamy Brothers, Terri Clark, and others, plus Ball's track-by-track comments. Of special note is the band supporting Ball on the original album, regarded now as one of the best honky groups ever assembled, with credits to 19 musicians and singers. Ball continues to record his new songs and tour, reminding us that country music can sound as good as it does here.