Blue Elan/Fathead Records
11 tracks; 43 minutes
Janiva Magness is a frequent nominee and regular winner at the Blues Music Awards and her older body of work across labels such as Northern Blues and Alligator is well worth checking out. This is Janiva’s second independent release on her own label following 2014’s Original. Since then Janiva has remarried and is clearly extremely happy, the songs here being fiercely optimistic about relationships. Janiva has again worked with producer Dave Darling who had a hand in writing all but two of the eleven songs here and contributes guitar, bass and backing vocals throughout. Other musicians involved include Zach Zunis and Garret Deloian on guitar, Gary Davenport on bass, Matt Laug on drums, Ismael Pineda on percussion, Alfredo Ballesteros on sax and Phil Parlipiano and Arlan Schierbaum on keys. Backing vocalists include Brie Darling, Bernie Barlow, Gary Pinto and Janiva’s husband TJ Norton.
Whether the songwriter is Dave or Janiva (who contributed to five songs) the message remains consistently upbeat about her relationship. The title track sets the tone with a great melody, rousing chorus and soulful attack and that soul style continues on the impressive Memphis-style ballad “When You Hold Me” which adds some discreet sax work to the mix. If you want some James Brown style funk try “Your House Is Burnin’” with its insistent rhythm and smouldering guitar work but Janiva can handle a power ballad like “Say You Will” equally well and sounds positively seductive on the sexy “Real Slow”! In complete contrast “Just Another Lesson” finds Janiva backed by simple acoustic guitar which shows off the power and beauty of her voice. “Moth To A Flame” is a fine piece of Rn’B with echoey guitar and the slower-paced “Doorway” showcases the ‘choir’ of backing vocalists to good effect. The anthemic “Rain Down” is a big production with synth strings and a sweeping chorus which stretches Janiva’s vocals before the lone cover, a sparse reading of John Fogerty’s CCR song “Long As I Can See The Light” which really brings out the gospel overtones of the song with a fine piano solo and ringing baritone guitar. The closing track “Who Will Come For Me” retains that gospel feel to Janiva’s vocal as she contemplates time running out on us all, accompanied by some great sax and guitar.
This is far from a straight blues album but will certainly appeal to anyone who enjoys well-crafted songs and a strong singer who uses her voice effectively without recourse to histrionics.