Janiva Magness,
(Fathead, 2014)

Stepping into new territory can be a traumatic experience for anyone, but especially for an artist. It puts at risk expectations from fans as well as results for the performer.

Original is such an adventure for Janiva Magness. She's stepped away from a six-year relationship with Alligator Records to embark on an independent release blending roots, rock and soul music and bringing her songwriting skills to the fore.

In this writer's opinion, Janiva and her fans have naught to worry about. Once again, the multi-blues award-winner delivers all the energy, emotion and technical ability her many fans have come to expect.

Expanding on the newly realized talent she first exhibited in Stronger For It and with the encouragement of producer Dave Darling, Janiva co-wrote seven of the 11 songs on this aptly titled album, and she pours a lot of her biography into them. It's evident her life experiences contribute much of the emotion expressed in the lyrics and this expansion of her style exposes her to a wider audience than the traditional blues for which she's best known.

Janiva had much to overcome in taking this leap of faith in her talent and ability. Since 2010 she's had to deal with the end of a 17-year marriage, the deaths of some close friends and relatives and surgery for a serious neck injury that put her sultry voice in jeopardy.

Despite worries in the aftermath of the operation, which left her speechless for several weeks, her voice remains as rich and soulful as ever. It's difficult to select a favorite, which is always a personal matter. A few that struck my fancy include "When You Were My King," "I Need a Man" and "Mountain." It's all good music, though.

She has the backing of her band: Zach Zunis, guitar; Jim Alfredson, organ and piano; Gary Davenport, bass; and Matt Tecu, drums, all of whom also provide background vocals, as well as Dave Darling, vocals, guitar, bass; Brie Darling, percussion; Carl Sealove, bass; and Dan Navarro, vocals.

Original is another exciting leap forward for the talented Miss Magness.

[ visit the artist's website ]

music review by
John Lindermuth

23 August 2014

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