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JANIVA MAGNESS/ “Love Is An Army” (Blue Élan BER1072)


Seven times “Blues Award” winner Janiva has some fine guests on this set – not that this Los Angeles based singer actually needs them, as anyone who has heard her music before can testify, and this is her fourteenth album – but it does mean that Delbert McClinton duets (instantly recognisably) with her on the country ballad ‘What Could I Do’, and Delbert’s mix of blues, country, soul, R&B, and Americana is a good reference point for the percolating music on this album. Janiva opens the set with the beautiful lilting soul of ‘Back To Blue’ before Charlie Musselwhite’s wailing harmonica announces the tough, driving blues of ‘Hammer’; Rusty Young’s wonderful pedal steel playing is all over ‘On And On’ before Janiva moves back to the blues with the fine, moody sound of ‘Tell Me’, which also features some tough electric guitar playing by producer Dave Darling.
The title track is an acoustic-based ballad, with Texas singer/ songwriter Bryan Stephens helping out on vocals, and Courtney Harman of bluegrass band Della Mae supplies banjo and guitar to the traditional-sounding ‘Down Below’. ‘What’s That Say About You’ is a classic and classy mid-tempo soul beater, and Cedric Burnside guests on ‘Home’, with archaic gospel styled vocals and a raw Mississippi hill country-inflected sound. Doug Livingston’s pedal steel features heavily in the passionate ballad ‘Love To A Gunfight’ and the quieter ‘When It Rains’, before this excellent album closes with the gospel piano and vocal of ‘Some Kind Of Love’. Throughout these dozen songs, Janiva’s vocals are exemplary, the material is richly melodic, and the lyrics meaningful.
Norman Darwen
(www.janivamagness.com)

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