Many people have heard Earl Poole Ball play the piano without realizing it. He can be heard on albums by such artists as The Byrds, Linda Ronstadt, Rick Nelson, Buck Owens, Marty Robbins, Carl Perkins, Marty Stuart, Wanda Jackson, Merle Haggard, and Mickey Gilley. He toured and recorded with Johnny Cash from 1977 until Cash’s retirement in 1997.
Ball has now released Pianography, which is a somewhat dis-jointed album that presents different parts and facets of his career. There are seven new tracks, a couple of songs from 1967 and 1977, and four live tracks from a Johnny Cash tribute show in Austin, Texas.
He falls into the country rockabilly school of music. His sound is a little smoother than one would associate with that style of music. While he is an accomplished pianist and has played a brand of honky-tonk that is among the best in the business; on this release he many times takes a back seat to the guitars and rhythm section. When he does solo, it give a glimpse of just how good he is and makes one wish there was more of it.
The live tracks have a verve and vitality about them. There is a smooth rendition of Cash’s “Big River” and a sincere “Will The Circle Be Unbroken.” The two highlights are Roy Orbison tunes. He rocks through “Down The Line” and “Mean Woman Blues” and both are prime examples of who he is as an artist and musician.
The albums best and most effective track originated in 1977. “Flowers On Papa’s Grave” grew out of a visit with his aunt and uncle to their grand-father’s grave, (his great grand-father), in an old country cemetery when he was a teen-ager. A wonderful song and a memorable performance.
Earl Poole Ball has racked up a lot of miles during his career. Pianography may not be a perfect album but they are enough glimpses of his talent to make it worthwhile.