Janiva Magness has learned a lot of life lessons. She was a foster child and lived on the streets. She earned her blues the hard way, and she has established herself as one of the leading female blues singers today. At this point, she could settle into a set style and play it safe. Instead, she has taken the bold step of giving us Original , which she released on her own label, Fathead Records.
With Original, Magness wrote or co-wrote seven of the 11 numbers. She has taken the personal turmoil that has marked the past few years, including divorce, death of close friends, and a serious neck injury, and used them to fuel her creativity. Rather than bitterness, many of the songs reflect growing strength and affirmation, while others accept and face sadness and the hard facts that life sometimes throws at us.
The CD opens with “Let Me Breathe,” a song that captures the raw pain of the loss of love which shakes a person to the core. But then she continues with “Twice As Strong,” an affirmation that we are, after all, able to take what comes and just get stronger and better
That doesn’t mean that it doesn’t hurt, and “When You Were My King,” with a rough edge to the vocal, is a poignant statement of that pain.
By contrast, the rocking “I Need A Man” is a straight-forward statement that Magness is not giving up and this time she knows what she needs and she’s not settling. “Everything Is Alright” and “With Love” continue to soulfully assert that love and trust are still possible.
Another emotion that Magness acknowledges is anger. “Mountain” and “Badass” express those elegantly and soulfully. “Who Am I?” taps into Motown and Stax territory for a soul-searching number and “The Hard Way” continues the classic soul sound for a wonderful ballad about making it through the hard times.
The CD ends with “Standing,” a song which expresses both vulnerability and hope.
Every song here illustrates something about how we learn, how we endure, and how we live. Magness has a marvelous blues voice and a sound and style that are full of soul. She also has a brave willingness to make her own soul visible to us, which is the core of the blues. This CD is, indeed, original, and belongs on the playlist of every blues and soul fan.[amazon template=iframe image&asin=B00L4L8MCW]