Blue Elan/Fathead Records
This Lady Sings The Blues With Grit and Polish.
It tells you something about where my head is at these days that the name Janiva Magness meant nothing to me when I first played this stunning mini-album; only to find that I’d reviewed her previous album LOVE WINS AGAIN and loved it to bits!
To celebrate that album receiving a 2017 Grammy Nomination; alongside Producer Dave Darling and a red hot band Janiva Magness has been in the studio and recorded six of her favourite song; all Blues ones of course!
You know exactly where the first song here; I Can Tell is coming from via the raw Bo Diddleyesque guitar chops and the sullen way Ms Magness delivers her ‘message’ to her cheating man……this is the Blues baby; and very Dark Blues indeed. Just like the Doctor ordered.
Already a word of praise must go out to Janiva Magness’ band; who are equally understated and brilliant in equal measures.
It’s a brave woman who covers an Etta James song but alongside Sugaray Rayford they turn If I Can’t Have You into a spicy duet full of red hot passion and a whole lot of Soul with a capital S.
OOOOHHEEEE! The biggest surprise of all comes next when the guitars are cranked up and Janiva rocks the joint to it’s very foundations on Tired of Walking; the type of sweaty R&B I’ve loved for 40 odd years and very little has sounded feistier or, dare I say it……sexier.
While I didn’t recognise the sassy Country-Blues song Buck at first; a quick ‘Google’ found it first came to prominence via Ms Nina Simone and it’s actually one of my favourites on her Greatest Hits album. Here; it’s a little different from the others as it has a ‘Country-Blues’ flavour to it; but the whip sharp guitar and electric piano spine keep it on track, and make it fit in perfectly.
The all too short EP/Mini-Album comes to a close with a sweltering reinterpretation of Freddie Kings Pack It Up; a song that is just perfect for Janiva Magness’ hip-shaking and swaggering style of Blues. Perfect to dance to but just as good to listen to when your heart is broken and the world doesn’t understand your pain.
Regular readers won’t be the least bit surprised to find that my Favourite Track comes when things slide even darker and deeper on the beautiful second track, Al Kooper’s magnificent I Love You More Than You’ll Ever Know. Here Janiva turns the lights down low and stares intently at the telephone, which never rings on a song first heard on a Blood Sweat & Tears; which actually sums up this particular version.
In the olden days artists recording albums of cover versions was seen as ‘contract filler’ but now with charts a figment of the imagination, singers like Janiva Magness can pretty much choose to record albums like this just for the ‘love of the music’ and the world is a better place for it.
Released May 12th 2017