"Stronger For It" by Janiva Magness is the Gospel of the Blues


Janiva Magness

Stronger For It is the latest release from Janiva Magness on Alligator Records. Janiva is the authoritative, hard working blueswoman with a voice built for the blues; deep and inflective. In a word, her new album is “Gospel” — The gospel of the formidable blueswoman, the gospel music that seeps it’s way into nearly every track, the gospel of unmistakably moving vocals.

Stronger For It  starts out with a cool groove and a frank, strong take on a man who very well might be in danger of catching a well-deserved shiv by the blues diva. “Make it Rain”, a Tom Waits tune & and enlightened choice for the album, keeps some of the Waits funk, but Magness lays a distinct ownership on the number. The drums on “I’m Alive” give it a primal groove as Magness sings about surviving heartbreak. “You Got What You Wanted” is a bold and faithful rendition of a Tina Turner number, with a perfectly soul-filled B3, backup vocals, and a rockin’ percussion. Janiva’s vocals shine magnificently on the track. “I Don’t Want To Do Wrong” showcases a beautiful set of backup vocals underneath the mighty pipes of Magness, with a skillfully placed & tonal lead guitar and one form-fitting, classic B3 solo.

Possibly two of the most emphatic numbers lay towards the end of the album, in the yin-and-yang pairing of “Things Left Undone” and “Whoop and Holler”. It’s here that the sheer power of Magness’ Gospel shines the brightest. Whoop and Holler is an infectious get-up-and-dance number straight out of the most southern gospel church on earth. “Things Left Undone” paints a more existential picture of life — A tearjerker that demands repeat listening.

Nearly everything about Stronger For It is dripping with potency; from the blues singer’s powerful notes to the lyrics and sheer force of the music. “I might get cut,” she croons firmly, “and I might bleed, but I won’t cry.” The tracks have a familiar appeal, with themes of overcoming trials and challenge, and also taking a glimpse into the deeper meanings of life. Much of the music has a classic throwback appeal to the early days of R&B and Soul, with blues and gospel being the common keys.  The sure sign of a powerful album is how long it stays in our player, and this has been a staple since we got the big, yellow Alligator Records package in the mail.

Let’s call it what it is: Stronger for It by Janiva Magness is a damn fine album that demands a place in blues fan’s hearts and collections.

 Pick up a copy of “Stronger For It” at Alligator Records