Janiva Magness

Blues has more than its fair share of femmes fatale, from old-school shouters like Etta James and Koko Taylor to the more nuanced Marcia Ball and Tracy Nelson. It's been awhile since a new performer surfaced who could hold her own with those names, but Detroit native Magness might just be the one to do it. Possessing a full-throated voice stuffed with intensity and emotional heft, her outstanding CD What Love Will Do (Alligator) combines both new material and covers of Marvin Gaye, Al Green and Little Milton. Although Love is Magness's debut for a national label, she's been putting out cassettes (remember those?) and CDs on her own for a decade. Excelling in both up-tempo, horn-drenched Memphis soul and heartbreaking ballads, Magness truly is more of a force than a singer, with a backstory that could have been ripped straight from blues mythology. Magness was 15 when her mother committed suicide...and then her father followed suit a year later. After living on the streets, and then in 12 foster homes over two years, she got pregnant and gave up a daughter for adoption. Only after seeing Otis Rush in concert did Magness think performing could be a way out, and more than two decades later, she's truly arrived with Love. So much for an overnight sensation...

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Bob Ruggiero has been writing about music, books, visual arts and entertainment for the Houston Press since 1997, with an emphasis on classic rock. He used to have an incredible and luxurious mullet in college as well. He is the author of the band biography Slippin’ Out of Darkness: The Story of WAR.
Contact: Bob Ruggiero