While the music critics seem to have trouble categorizing singer Marcia Ball, the artist herself is certain of her style. "Rhythm and blues. It's pretty simply that," says the 36-year-old singer. Some confusion may linger because Ball has previously performed both rock and country-western music. "There are not any traces left of the old stuff," says Ball. "I don't know whether they actually hear this [country sound], or just think they do because I'm from that part of the country."

Ball, who grew up in southern Louisiana, says she was "born in Orange, Texas, because Vinton, Louisiana, didn't have a hospital," and she was raised on soul music. "Horn bands played at the school dances," she says. "That was all we listened to. Although I grew up in the South, it wasn't in the western-music part of the country."

Often compared to Janis Joplin and Bonnie Raitt, Ball says, "It's not that it hurts my feelings or anything. I admire them both, but I don't think I sound like them. I think the comparisons are made because of stylistic similarities . . . I can if I want sound a whole lot like Janis Joplin. I used to sing her songs," she says. "I don't try to sound like anyone."

Ball put out her third album, "Hot Tamale Baby," in March, and is currently touring with her three-member band. They perform tonight at the Roxy.