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The Devil Is An Angel Too

Janiva Magness

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Album Review

It would have been natural for soul/roots vocalist Magness to capitalize on the success of her 2008 Alligator debut by shifting toward a more commercial middle ground for the follow-up two years later. While she hasn't changed direction drastically, it's encouraging that Magness finds under-the-radar material to wrap her husky voice around. Those somewhat unlikely sources for torchy songs include gems from Nick Lowe and Julie Miller. The latter provides the title track, setting the album's philosophical tone by examining both the angelic and demonic sides of human nature. That theme weaves through the disc on stirring, often rousing covers of tunes made famous, or at least introduced to Magness, by Graham Parker ("I'm Gonna Tear Your Playhouse Down," perhaps better-known to R&B fans through Ann Peebles' classic performance), Percy Sledge ("Walkin' in the Sun"), Marvin Gaye ("End of Our Road"), and Joe Tex (the often covered but rarely impressive "I Want to Do Everything for You"). She also revisits the Nina Simone well. Simone is a logical source since the singer's eclectic song choices seem to be an inspiration for Magness' own approach. Here she dusts off and breathes new life into the Bricusse/Newley standard "Feeling Good" (incorrectly listed as "I'm Feelin' Good"). The disc's wide stylistic range flows together effortlessly with Magness' broad, sultry, soulful vocals, unique arrangements, and a band that tugs at the heart of these songs, delivering taut yet spacious performances. Many of the players return from her last outing with standout work from guitarist/co-producer Dave Darling. His swampy touch meshes with drummer Stephen Hodges' patented, rubbery thumping. The combination works flawlessly with the Memphis groove of "Playhouse," where Magness' powerful pipes bite into the song like a hungry wolf. She's just as effective on "Weeds Like Us," an ominous, deep Delta blues ballad written by husband/bassist/guitarist Jeff Turmes, who also contributes the closing, standard-styled "Turn Your Heart in My Direction." Magness connected with a definitive version of Gary Nicholson's "You Were Never Mine" a few albums ago, and finds another Nicholson gem in the aching gospel of "Save Me." These dozen songs barely break the 40-minute mark, allowing the singer to hit her targets and move on. Magness nails every performance, seamlessly shifting from dark to light. It's that dichotomy that brings the tension and release, edging her a little further from the typical R&B territory that is only a starting point for her dynamic talent.

Customer Reviews

Unbelievable.

I'm like "who's that?". . . Then I'm blown away by song after song.

Ooh Yeah!!!

Baby girl, this here is how it's did, and I know you know that's right.

The Devil is an Angel Too

Dude! WOW!!! I've been a fan of Ms Magness's for years, it would be an epic mistake not to pick this album up. This may be my favorite of her's. Just thought you should know.

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,...
Full Bio
The Devil Is An Angel Too, Janiva Magness
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