Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Janiva Magness -- "Stronger For It"

Janiva Magness has made the finest record of her career, and one of the most powerful blues cds of the past decade. Ten years from now, I think we will remember 2012 as the year of Janiva Magness. This is the same way I felt when I first heard Springsteen's "Nebraska." It's simply the best cd I've heard in the entire 4 years I've been writing this blog.

Magness is an eleven-time Blues Music Award nominee, and she won the coveted 2009 Blues Music Awards for B.B. King Entertainer Of The Year (she is only the second woman to ever win this award, Koko Taylor being the first) and for Contemporary Blues Female Artist Of The Year, an honor she also received in 2006 and 2007.

This cd follows Magness's BMA nominated albums on Alligator Records, "The Devil Is An Angel Too" (2010) and "What Love Will Do" (2008). Quite an impressive set.

After struggling through what she has termed "the most personally challenging year that I can ever remember" in 2011, Magness threw herself into the music and come up with a gem of an album. "Stronger For It" was a cathartic experience for Magness, and the way she sings on each song of loss and recovery, pain and redemption, hurt and healing her story becomes our story as well. Her singing is clear, powerful, and deeply emotional. This is not a cd for background music.

Production is by Dave Darling. The band includes Matt Tecu on drums, Gary Davenport on bass, Zach Zunis and Dave Darling on guitars and Jim Alfredson on keyboards. For the first time since her debut album in 1997, Magness wrote three songs with Dave Darling. Her three autobiographical songs stand out here, even among covers by top-notch songwriters like Tom Waits, Grace Potter, Shelby Lynne, Ray Wylie Hubbard, Matthew Sweet and Julie Miller.

Just invest the time to listen to "There It Is" or "I Won't Cry" (written by Magness & Darling, as is "Whistlin In The Dark") or "I'm Alive" or "Dirty Water" or "Whoop And Holler." Listen to one song and I can only believe that you will buy the whole cd, and one listen to "Stronger For It" and you will understand what I'm trying to say. Five Stars.

This cd was released on March 13th. You can buy it at http://www.alligatorrecords.com

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