You don’t have to listen to blues singer Janiva Magness for long before knowing, really knowing, that she has suffered through more than her fair share of pain and heartbreak in her life. As she sings about “never wanting to hurt a man so bad”, twisting knives and so forth, it’s also apparent that she is determined to channel all of that energy into her music, and the result is close to spellbinding.
Magness is a Detroit native, now based out in the pits of La-La Land. She has, however, held onto her DE-troit grit and integrity, producing music completely devoid of fluff and nonsense. She’s an engaging performer, but the music comes first.
Her band is as tight as a duck’s ass, but it is the passion rather than the technical expertise that really shines through. Every note played, every note that comes out of Magness’ mouth, is meant.
The Magic Bag, incidentally, is the perfect venue for a show like this, and Magness stalks the stage as if she owns it throughout, whether it be empty handed or with the awesome cigar box guitar she plays on her opening number (you really don’t see enough of those things any more).
Magness is ultimately a figure of inspiration. She may have lost her parents to suicide at 16, she may have had to give up a child for adoption when she was a teen, she may have been passed from one foster home to another, but today her strength continues to carry her forward. Her new album, Stronger For It is tangible proof.