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Bury Him At the Crossroads

Janiva Magness

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Album Review

Magness, who won a 2004 W.C. Handy Award as Best Contemporary Blues Female Artist, seems cut from the same mold as singers 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.

Biography

Born: Detroit, MI

Genre: Blues

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

Blues and soul singer Janiva Magness was no stranger to trouble and hard times growing up, and at her best, she pours that lifetime of emotion into her passionate phrasing and vocal delivery. Born in Detroit, Magness grew up with her father's blues and country record collection, as well as the city's wonderfully Motown pop-soul sound, all of which shaped her style and approach as a musician. She lost both of her parents to suicide while in her early teens, and she ended up living on the streets,...
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Bury Him At the Crossroads, Janiva Magness
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