Magness disc shows award-winning form
Reviewed October 2010
The Devil is An Angel Too
By Janiva Magness
Alligator Records: 2010
To hear sound clips or learn more about this release, Turbula recommends viewing its Amazon.com entry.
After winning the BB King Entertainer of the Year award last year, a coveted blues title that confirmed her status as a star, Janiva Magness has recorded a new disc, "The Devil is An Angel Too."
Back from her successful 2008 disc "What Will Love Do" is Dave Darling, along with two other producers and an able cadre of LA musicians. The music here is both fast and slow blues, mostly in guitar/keys/bass/drums format, and it is mostly covers of obscure blues given new life by Magness. Her vocals are the show; she fills the room with her voice, which is a striking blues instrument-loud, clear, expressive, and yet just rough enough when pushed to sound raw.
The title track starts it off, tough and lowdown with Magness' throaty vocal conveying both bluesy sass and gospel abandon, while booming drums and slide guitars play a sinister voodoo backdrop. The disc sustains the energy with "I'm Gonna Tear Your Playhouse Down", an R&B cover that features a knockout lead vocal dueling with gritty guitar lines the length of the song.
The barroom-grinding stuff works great throughout, but there are other tunes, like "Feeling Good." This tune, co-written by Anthony Newley, was likely composed to sound like something light from a stage musical, but in the hands of Magness and the band it's more like an old-fashioned traditional blues ballad, along the lines of "Summertime." "The End of Our Road" is a taste of Aretha Franklin, minus the one or two high-E wails that Lady Soul might have thrown in, but missing nothing else. Other highlights include "Save Me" and "Homewrecker", but there are no clunkers here.
"The Devil is An Angel Too" is the kind of music that fully displays the vocal talents of a superb blues singer. Janiva Magness will likely win even more fans with this disc.
Review by Frank Kocher, a longtime San Diego resident, musician, music collector and frequent contributor to The San Diego Troubadour.