Country's David Ball goes independent with 'Malone' hit

Sunday, January 27, 2002

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Based on the typical career path of a midlevel country singer, David Ball should be making his living by singing his 1994 smash hit, "Thinkin' Problem," to an ever-shrinking audience.

That's the road he was on last year.

Then his single "Riding With Private Malone" went all the way to No. 2 on the Billboard country charts in December. Ball released the record on independent label Dualtone, after being dropped by Warner Bros., and before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

"Riding With Private Malone" tells the tale of a man who buys a Chevrolet once owned by a soldier who died in Vietnam. The story climaxes with an accident, where the narrator is rescued by the ghost of the dead soldier, Pvt. Andrew Malone.

Ball's album "Amigo" has sold more than 120,000 copies, mostly on the strength of the hit and the recent appetite for patriotic songs.

Dualtone planned to release a version of "Riding With Private Malone" to adult contemporary stations this month.

"It's an impressive feat," said Mike Brophey, program director at country station WKLB in Boston. "David's been around awhile and it's nice to hear him sing such a strong song."

Ball, 48, recorded unsuccessfully for RCA in the late 1980s, then hit it big when "Thinkin' Problem" went to No. 2 for Warner Bros. in 1994.

Two more albums failed to kick up much dust for Warner Bros., and Ball was dropped. He recorded "Amigo" on his own, with producer Wood Newton.

"Once I was cut loose from the big machine, I knew it was time to make a definitive record, an artistic statement," Ball said.

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