The title track of Marcia Ball’s latest album, “Shine Bright,” is as great a calling card as anything she’s recorded since she began making records in the late ’70s.
The Texas native’s rollicking New Orleans-style piano anchors a soulful anthem about self-affirmation and courage, laced with her trademark tenor and positive vibe.
On the song’s coda, Ball name drops a diverse list of trailblazers including Martin Luther King, Neil Armstrong, Jackie Robinson, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Susan B. Anthony.
She gives props to a couple of musicians, too: fellow piano player Little Richard and New Orleans soul singer Irma Thomas.
The ones Ball couldn’t fit into the song get an honorable mention in the album’s packaging.
“If you look at the CD cover, when you lift the CD out of the tray, there’s a whole list of people even more extensive than we use in the song,” said Ball, who performs at 8 p.m. Friday at Tupelo Music Hall in Derry on a bill with Louisiana slide guitarist Sonny Landreth.
Ball doesn’t consider herself a folk singer, but she finds herself sneaking in social commentary every now and then. Three songs on “Shine Bright” — including the hopeful ballad “World Full of Love” and the call to action, “Pots and Pans” — address the world as she sees it right now.
“That’s our little trick. We just mention it with a good dance beat,” Ball said by phone from a tour stop Wednesday in Massachusetts. “There’s so much going on that people should really be thinking about that it’s hard not to bring some of that into our program.”
“Shine Bright,” is Ball’s sixth release for Alligator Records since she signed with the Chicago-based blues label in 2001. While most artists with a track record as long as Ball’s typically slow down and coast on their back catalog, she puts out new records every few years.
“If I want to keep going, I have to keep something fresh … I just hate doing all the same material,” Ball says. “And there’s always something to say … I’m always listening and writing and eavesdropping.”
Ball recorded “Shine Bright” with producer Steve Berlin, also known for his long tenure as the saxophone and keyboard player for Los Lobos. The tracks were recorded at sessions in Texas and Louisiana.
“I thought it was one of my better strokes of genius to think, ‘Hey, maybe I can get that guy.’ Everything we did on that record was fun,” Ball said. “He chose a studio in Austin where he had worked before, and it was great.”
B-3 organist Eric Adcock, one of Ball’s many musician friends, organized the Louisiana sessions.
“I called him to see if he wanted to be involved, and I told him what I was hoping to do. About a day later he called back and said, ‘OK, we got the studio, we got the players, we got the catering. We got everything.’” Ball said. “Of course, in Louisiana, if you’re making a record, after you get the studio, the players and the songs, you got to get the food.”
Ball and her band will be packing in as many songs as she can Friday. Both she and Landreth will be playing 75-minute sets. So while she’ll perform some songs from “Shine Bright,” released in 2018, she’ll be cherry-picking highlights from throughout her career.
“In a set that encompasses 12 to 15 songs, you don’t have that much time,” Ball said.
When Ball returns to Austin, she’ll be performing at a birthday celebration for herself and a friend April 4 at the iconic Antone’s Nightclub on to raise money for HOME (Housing Opportunities for Musicians and Entertainers), a nonprofit she helped found several years ago “that helps pay rent for older musicians.”