This Southern California-based singer has been building quite a buzz in the blues world, churning out six CDs in nine years, culminating in winning Contemporary Female Blues Artists Of The Year at this year’s Blues Music Awards (formerly the W.C. Handy Awards).
Magness’ personal saga, ping-ponging from one foster home to another 12 times as a child, may account for her blues leanings and what she proudly proclaims her “hussie” attitude. But, ironically, she likely inherited her voice from her parents, whose suicide when she was a child placed her in the foster system.
The Detroit native was influenced early on by country singers (with bluesy influences) like Hank Williams, Tex Ritter, and Patsy Cline. But at 14 she stumbled onto an Otis Rush gig in Minneapolis, and soon immersed herself in the blues.
Do I Move You? is her second collaboration with Canadian producer/guitarist Colin Linden (who’s worked with artists from Keb’ Mo’ to Bruce Cockburn) and her sixth with bassist/guitarist/saxophonist Jeff Turmes (who’s worked with James Harman, Doug MacLeod, and Gary Primich, and happens to be Janiva’s husband). With Rick Holmstrom (the Mighty Flyers, Johnny Dyer, R.L. Burnside) also pitching in, guitar chores are in more than good hands. Add Stephen Hodges’ drums, and you know you’ve got a cooking band.
Magness sometimes sounds like a female version of one of her biggest supporters, Delbert McClinton – particularly on his R&B ballad “You Were Never Mine.” The soulful strut of “I Want You To Have Everything” recalls Willie Tee’s “Teasin’ You,” and then Janiva takes on Nina Simone’s dirge-like title track – no mean feat.
It would appear that the buzz surrounded Magness was justified.
This article originally appeared in VG‘s Aug. ’06 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.