Janiva Magness had an artistic coming out with her self-penned 2014 album, Original. Though sheâ€™d dabbled in songwriting before, the album marked a turn from interpreter of other peopleâ€™s stories to essayist of her firsthand emotions. She continues that direction with her latest, co-writing four of the albumâ€™s twelve tracks, and selecting material from collaborator and producer Dave Darling, as well as Paul Thorn and others. She also welcomes several guests to the album, including vocalist Delbert McClinton on â€œWhat I Could Do,â€ harmonica legend Charlie Musselwhite on â€œHammer,â€ and most surprisingly, Poco pedal steel player Rusty Young on the shuffle â€œOn and On.â€ The latter, taken with Doug Livingstonâ€™s dobro on the Western-tinged â€œDown Below,â€ shows off the range of roots Magness has been exploring.
The album opens on an emotionally low note of romantic dissolution, but Magness doesnâ€™t stay down for long. She admits her faults, pines, lauds the resolve needed to power through heartbreak, and continues to leap forward with a spirit whose optimism isnâ€™t grounded by past falls. When knocked to the canvas, she picks herself up before the bell, and when serving as the cornerman, she provides unwavering support to those she loves. The 60s-styled soul of â€œWhatâ€™s That Say About Youâ€ offers a moving message of community, but elsewhere she excoriates the divisions sewn by Americaâ€™s leaders. The album closes with the gospel faith of â€œSome Kind of Love,â€ complementing the threads of Memphis soul and Nashville country that have inspired a winning display of songwriting and vocal versatility. [Â©2018 Hyperbolium]