Janiva Magness - Reviews

 
 

"Janiva Magness seamlessly traverses a variety of blues forms with style and authenticity on "Bury Him at the Crossroads". From vintage R&B ("One More Heartache"), to torch ("A Woman Knows"), to Delta (Rev. Robert Wilkins' "That's No Way to Get Along"), to soul (Sam Cooke's "Lost and Lookin'"), Bury Him at the Crossroads is a fantastic showcase of Magness' dynamic vocal range and the stellar musicianship of her backing band. Sophisticated and mature, this album should garner Magness some overdue widespread acclaim in 2005."

-MS
Dirty Linen
April/May 2005 

 
   

"Finally someone has put out what can be classified as a roots album that is not completely acoustic and doesn’t rely on trying to sound like it was cut 70 years ago with today's technology and production.

"Quite the contrary.
Bury Him At The Crossroads takes a very modern contemporary approach that melds yesterday’s musical simplicity with modern day musical sophistication resulting in 13 breathtaking numbers presented as only Janiva Magness’ powerful voice can.

"I can honestly say without reservation that
Bury Him At The Crossroads is undoubtedly her best work to date. If you haven’t heard Janiva Magness yet, then you are indeed missing one of the best blues singers of modern times. This one gets a standing ovation."

-Steve Hinrichsen
Blues Bytes
October-November, 2004 

more>
   

"A LA scene veteran, Magness, often paired with Jeff Turmes, has five previous CDs under her own name on various small labels and singly or together they've contributed to numerous other albums such as those by Kid Ramos and John "Juke" Logan. Colin Linden heard her and convinced NorthernBlues to take on this project and we should be pleased he did. With Richard Bell, Turmes and Stephen Hodges on drums, this quintet becomes a welcome addition to the albums of female blues singers. Magness was nominated for a Handy Award this year for Contemporary Female vocalist and this disc provides all the evidence you need for that accolade. She proves it here by moving effortlessly from J.B. Lenoir's solo acoustic "The Whale Has Swallowed Me" to the full band workout on Magic Sam's "Everything Gonna Be Alright". Oliver Sain's "The Soul of a Man" leads into Rev. Robert Wilkins' "That's No Way To Get Along". The title song is a doomy, atmospheric acoustic original from Turmes, one of five of his here. It features him on banjo and Linden on guitar. Delbert McClinton's "Ain't Lost Nothin'" is another band highlight and I have to write that it's a treat to hear Colin play so much blues guitar!"

-John Valenteyn
Toronto Blues Society
October, 2004 

more>
   

"If you like those lusty ladies that know how to belt out the blues, this white girl has a black girl's soul and can deliver with the best of them. Given a proper setting from producer Colin Linden, Magness sets the proceedings on fire right out of the box, and never lets up. She's already been a Handy nominee; next time out, with this as the underpinning, she'll be a Handy Award winner. The genre has a new high water mark."

-Midwest Record Recap
August 21, 2004 

 
   

"This mostly vocal AND acoustic CD rocks with a sexual vitality and power not heard in years... With a rich choice of material, Janiva Magness' expressive voice goes from mournful to joyous without a hitch... Bury Him At The Crossroads is an exceptionally wide-ranging CD that would stand up to anything in your collection..."

-Beardo
Blueswax
September 1, 2004 

more>
   

"Magness has a voice as rich and expressive as anybody currently working the roots music genre. Part soulful ballad singer, blues shouter and even plaintive folk crooner, the scope of the Detroit native's vocal talents and her natural style almost rival the great Etta James. On this, her third album, all the pieces fall into place: great songs, both new and old; a stellar backing band that includes Janis Joplin's former keyboardist; and all around great production and sound."

-Mark Wilson
Courier Press
September 2, 2004 

 
   

"In 2004, Magness received her first nod from the WC Handy Awards -- the blues equivalent of the Grammys -- where she was this year nominated for "Best Contemporary Female Blues Artist." This collection is an aural excursion of roots music that combines the fiery singer's robust influences, such as Etta James and Marcia Bell. Magness crosses boundaries with her unabashed style and dynamic vocal range. There's an ache in her voice that can never leave -- one she can use to sound utterly heartfelt even when her songs grow wry and absurd. Her limber band covers the Texas spectrum from swing, to honky-tonk country, to folk-blues, to gospel."

-The John Shelton Ivany Top 21 #192
August 29 - September 5, 2004 

 
   

"As a teen in the turbulent sixties, British guys in matching suits and big amplifiers were my initial exposure to the Blues. I thank the higher powers everyday for the return of indigenous music to the American consciousness. Since then I've been predisposed to electric Blues music with an emphasis on guitar instrumentals. Many purists label this as masturbation and pooh-pooh the dismissal of acoustic music as snobbery. OK, I'm a snob ... and since self-manipulation is practiced by everyone (not at the same time or the earth would fall off its axis), how can it be bad?

That said, this mostly vocal AND acoustic CD rocks with a sexual vitality and power not heard in years. Hooking up with guitarist and producer Colin Linden (he seems to be a Canadian version of Don Was lately) has produced a recording that is honest, soulful, and seductive. With a rich choice of material, Janiva Magness' expressive voice goes from mournful to joyous without a hitch.

Some tunes, like the title track, have an Appalachian via Mississippi sparseness in their instrumentation that allows plenty of room for her voice. Evidently, long-time partner, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist Jeff Turmes hasn't lost his sense of humor either. "
Less and Less of You" and "Eat The Lunch You Brought" are keen examples of his comedic mindset. Even the ballads are cool, as is her once again "minimalist" approach to "One More Heartache." A tune once indelibly printed on my brain by Paul Butterfield and Marvin Gaye now has some worthy company.

I/you/we need to see Ms. Magness perform the bump and grind Blues of "
You Ain't Lost Nothing" and "Everything Gonna Be Alright," but my favorite is the quirky opening tune with Turmes' incredible baritone sax, "A Woman Knows." Wow! I haven't been able to stop playing that one for whoever will stand still long enough to listen. I think I/you/we need to see her perform that one, too.

Bury Him At The Crossroads is an exceptionally wide-ranging CD that would stand up to anything in your collection even without the six-string "wanking" I love. Janiva Magness' 2004 Handy nomination as Best Contemporary Blues Female Artist is a mere precursor to her winning it ... and if the Handy awards strive for relevance, it should be soon!

Rating: 8 out of 10"

-Beardo
BluesWax
September 1, 2004 

 
   

"Magness, who won a 2004 W.C. Handy Award as Best Contemporary Blues Female Artist, seems cut from the same mold as singer like Lou Ann Barton - there's a lovely rasp and conviction in her singing that brings sometimes mundane material alive. Working with a small band this time around, she can focus more on her singing, rather than becoming lost in the arrangements, and, in fact, it's the acoustic material here that serves her best, such as the interpretation of J.B. Lenoir's "The Whale Has Swallowed Me." At times the ensemble (which features Colin Linden on guitar) sounds a bit like a very professional bar band, but Magness has the class to cut through that and take it all a notch higher. The title track - presumably a reference to Robert Johnson - is a beautiful piece of work, haunting in its simplicity, and "The Soul Of A Man" shows that the line between blues and soul is blurred indeed (and you could add gospel into that mix). It would be good to hear her with more classic material - a lot of the songs here are good, but not completely memorable. However, there's no doubt that she deserves her award, and her future looks justifiably rosy."

-Chris Nickson
All Music Guide
September, 2004 

more>