music feature
July 1, 2005




Magness’ blues to visit KC
by Brandon Whitehead

Janiva Magness has a sultry, smoky voice that even a crappy phone connection from Cowtown to someplace called the Commercial Hotel in Alberta, Canada can’t cover up. Being a recipient of the B.B. King Award for Musical Excellence and the Jim Croce Award for Rhythm & Blues, this lady has more than paid her dues; and it shows in her simple yet rich song styles that can seemingly sooth or scold with the turn of a word.

Janiva Magness plays here own brand of blues at Knuckleheads Saloon on July 7.

Magness’ talent was nurtured in her hometown of Detroit listening to the likes of Etta James, Billie Holiday, Elmore James, Aretha Franklin and Koko Taylor on local rhythm and blues radio stations. Early on she was tagged as a rising talent by Living Blues magazine. Magness is now considered to be a major player in the modern blues scene.

Her sixth Blues and R&B album Bury Him at the Crossroads, has already been awarded the 2005 Maple Blues Award for Producer of the Year, and that’s fitting considering she has produced a wonderfully soulful and earthy collection of songs that run the gambit of light and dark. This is really blues at its best: emotional, soulful singing that never dips into maudlin simplicity.

And she did it in about half a day.

“We went in the studio and did all the tracks in about 10 hours,” says Magness. “I like to get everything taken care of in pre-production so we can just go and play.”

Magness is not a stranger to the touring side, either. “I’ve done some of what we call the barn tours in front of 5-10 thousand people, and it’s a blast. But it’s defiantly different than smaller venues.”

Having played at the late great Grand Emporium and BB’s Lawnside BBQ, she knows Kansas City.

“It’s a great town,” says Magness politely. “But I like both touring and recording pretty much equally. Colin (Linden, guitarist and co-producer) and I are working on our next CD, and it should be out in January.”

The best part of those smaller venues, other than being closer to the lovely lady herself, is seeing her play her own unique instrument, a washboard with, well, shall we say, a pair of… adjustments built in.

“There’s a lady in New Orleans, she has a patent on it. If you want one, you can get it, but you have to go to New Orleans…”

Does such a thing have a name?

“Yeah,” laughs Magness “(It’s called) Mine…it’s the only thing I play. Well, that and my voice…”

Janiva, along with guitarist Colin Linden , Jeff Turmes and the rest of her band (and that washboard), will be at Knuckleheads Saloon (2715 Rochester, KCMO, 816-483-1456) July 7.


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