Fathead Records 2014
Review by David Bowling
Janiva Magness is a rare modern day blues artist who has actually lived the blues. She lost both parents in her teens and was shuttled through a number of foster homes. She gave up a child as a teenager and had a long-term marriage end. Like many blues artists, she is a survivor and has been able to channel her experiences, both good and bad, into her music.
Now over 30 years into her career, she has released her 10th album titled Original. While this release may fly under the radar of many music fans; for blues aficionados it is an event to celebrate. She has received 22 Blues Music Nominations, been honored as Female Blues Artist Of The Year three times, and received the coveted B.B. King Blues Entertainer Of The Year Award in 2012.
Her new release not only finds her incorporating some rock and soul into her music but is also her coming out party as a songwriter. She has always been an apprehensive composer but here she steps forward and contributes seven original tunes, which reflect her journeys through life. The passion she brings to her own creations explores the very heart of the blues.
She is a vocalist with excellent tone and command of her instrument. She can soar and purr as needed but is always able to present her stories with authority. Her basic backing band consists of guitarist Zach Zunis, keyboardist Jim Alfredson, bassist Gary Davenport, and drummer Matt Tecu.
She is an artist who continues to evolve. Her sound is fuller and she uses creative rhythms and sounds to enhance her music. “When You Were My King” features her pure voice, some guitar reverb, plus acoustic and electric interplay. The confessional “Let Me Breathe” introduces the album with a blues guitar enhanced by a glockenspiel. From the simple to the complicated, songs such as “I Need A Man,” “Mountain,” “Badass,” “The Hard Way,” and “Standing” are not only a trip through the American blues but a journey through her mind and psyche as well.
Janiva Magness continues to fuse herself with her music. Original is another excellent leap into the world of the American blues by an artist who is still standing.