Probably best known as an award-winning blues singer, the dynamic Janiva Magness releases her 12th album, a highly personal emotional manifesto she calls Love Wins Again, in April. As she asserts quite clearly at the end of her liner note: “This record is me celebrating happy.”
Celebration indeed: The full-length’s 11 tunes, several written by Magness and the record’s producer Dave Darling, are performed as a kind of manifesto of the singer’s joy in the knowledge that “music is love, and it speaks, as it always has. If you listen it won’t be difficult to hear love, happiness, intimacy, truth, rebellion, redemption, resignation, hope, acceptance and finally the comfort of understanding.”
Though the blues alone might be too much of a generic limitation on all this happiness, Magness masterfully broadens her musical palate with the colors of soul, rock, and pop. She opens with the title song, a hot rocker announcing “sorrow’s all the way over” because love, indeed, “wins again.” Other highlights are the pop/blues love treat “When You Hold Me,” the dramatic “Moth to a Flame,” and a touch of Americana in “Just Another Lesson,” a dark lyric set in a sweetly soft melody.
“Your House Is Burnin’” is a rocker complete with the kind of horn accents that have James Brown written all over it. Magness carries it off with abandon. If the song’s message—a warning about the miserable state of the world—seems at odds with the album’s central message, the song does end with a call for positive action: “Brother to brother and hand to hand/Starting today, I’m gonna say it again/Woman to woman and skin to skin/This is the day that we begin. . ./ To get up, break the chain/Make it right.”
There is also a gutsy cover of the Creedence Clearwater Revival hit “Long as I Can See the Light.” This release ends with the almost prayerful end of life question: “Who Will Come for Me?”
The album, released by Blue Élan Records, includes a small poster backed handily by the lyrics of all the songs.