Album Reviews

Music You Don't Know You Like Yet

JANIVA MAGNESS

STRONGER FOR IT

2012-03-08

On her third disc for Alligator, singer Janiva Magness continues her exploration of American roots music. While the blues make an appearance now and then, those looking for another collection of boogies and shuffles need not apply. Instead, Magness applies her wondrous voice to a collection of roots tunes penned by the likes of Tom Waits, Grace Potter, Shelby Lynne, Gladys Knight, Ike Turner, Paul Thorn, Buddy and Julie Miller and even Matthew Sweet. With a large band including a couple of keyboardists and background singers, Magness employs a broad musical palette to add deep swampy textures, "Dirty Water", 70’s soul grooves, "I Won’t Cry", and rousing gospel to the mix, "Whoop and Holler". Magness’ voice is equally broad; open and vulnerable one moment, "Things Left Undone", sassy and confident the next, "Make It Rain", and as capable of a throaty, angry growl as a tender come-on. While the liner notes cryptically state the disc is an outgrowth of an intensely difficult period in her life, the lyrics are much more direct. On the self-penned "There It Is" Magness makes it clear there is a man she really wants to hurt and on "I Won’t Cry" she refuses him the satisfaction of her tears. She also throws some jabs as he moves on, "Thought I Knew You" and "You Got What You Wanted" where she spits nails over a bed of funky guitar and greasy b3. The notable absence of husband Jeff Turmes from the credits (where she literally thanks even the garbage man) and as a member of the band points to him as the source of her turmoil and as the subject of her scorn. As the title of the disc suggests, Magness found a survivor’s strength and the rest of the disc is spent contemplating life on her own, "Ragged Company", looking for courage in the face of uncertainty, "Whistlin’ In the Dark", reveling in coming out intact on the other side of the turmoil, "I’m Alive", and hoping she can restrain her darker side, "I Don’t Want To Do Wrong". As is so often the case with the blues her pain is the listener’s gain, as she publicly exorcises her demons and makes peace with the future. Another flat-out terrific release. Smitty

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Compiled by the WYCE Journalism Club

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