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Set sail on a blues cruise

Get ready to set sail Thursday, Jan. 9, as three-time Grammy winner Delbert McClinton and five-time Grammy nominee Marcia Ball grace the entertainment deck of Blues Cruise Hilo — also known as the Palace Theater stage.

Both McClinton and Ball will be backed by Grammy and W.C. Handy winner Johnny Nicholas &Hell Bent, featuring the slide guitar wizardry of Cindy Cashdollar. Showtime is at 7 p.m. Tickets are $30 in advance, $40 at the door and $50 for premium seating.

Advance tickets are available by calling the Palace box office at 934-7010 or online at

McClinton and Ball were the subjects and stars of the 2007 film “Rocking the Boat: A Musical Conversation and Journey,” a rockumentary film about the Sandy Beaches Cruise written, directed and edited by Keaau’s Jay Curlee, who’s also producing the concert with Susan James and the Palace.

McClinton has long been on the vanguard of the iconic Austin music scene, and Ball — who was born in Orange, Texas, raised in Vinton, La., and was recently inducted into the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame — claims musical “dual citizenship” in both states.

“Doug Sahm, who was a hero of mine, said there wasn’t really much of a line musically between Texas and Louisiana,” Ball told the Tribune-Herald earlier this month. “Recently, there was a book titled ‘The History of Texas Music’ (by University of Texas history professor Gary Hartman) and it documents the influence people like Clifton Chenier and people on the Gulf Coast of Louisiana had on guys in San Antonio like Doug Sahm and Sunny and the Sunliners. … It’s a funky kind of soul music that evolved from this crescent that encompasses New Orleans and the Mississippi Delta all the way to San Antonio. … It’s basically the cradle of American music. That’s what I draw from and that’s what Delbert draws from.”

Ball, who’s known as “Her Tallness” for obvious reasons, is a pianist and vocalist who serves up the many musical flavors of the Gulf Coast such as blues, roadhouse boogie, swamp rock, R&B — even zydeco.

“We’re just fortunate to have the right set of influences,” she said. “The style that Delbert and I have in common, we chanced upon. It’s what we do and what we know.

“I guess there are a few artists you can look to as mentors, whose music has always sustained, whose music is always there, and Fats Domino is one of them. Ray Charles would be another. And a guy whose name isn’t as well known, Allen Toussaint, but he wrote the big book of great New Orleans songs. That kind of music, which is what I write and what Delbert and Gary Nicholson write, it just makes people happy. And it just doesn’t ever get old. It’s timeless.”

Ball, whose music career has spanned four decades, recently made her debut as a movie actress, appearing as Great Aunt Jocelyn in the recent holiday film “Angels Sing” with Harry Connick Jr., Connie Britton, Kris Kristofferson, Willie Nelson and Lyle Lovett.

“It’s not really clear who I am in the film. If you read the back story, the stuff that was on the cutting room floor, you could figure it out. Basically, Kristofferson plays the patriarch of the family and I play family gathering during the holidays with an inappropriately young boyfriend,” she said, then quipped: “They told me to just show up in my own clothes and be myself.”

Ball is also working on a CD for 2014 release on Alligator Records. Her latest, 2011’s “Roadside Attractions,” was nominated for a Grammy. She said she’s never been to Hawaii and that the musicians are all looking forward to it, as well as bringing “the Delbert cruise” to the Palace.

“Basically, and the common denominator is that we all love Delbert,” she said. “And we’ve all gotten pleasure and enjoyment from him. Before I was even playin’ this kind of music, I was dancin’ to his music. That’s what you get when you see one of our shows and that’s what you get when you’re on cruise and that’s what you’ll get when we come to Hawaii.”

Email John Burnett at


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