Janiva Magness — one of the premier blues and R&B singers — was recently nominated for five top Blues Music Association awards and will bring her powerful voice and charismatic stage presence to The Palms Playhouse at 8:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 8. Tickets are $20.
No wanna-be blueswoman, Magness has the kind of life experiences to draw from that bring authority and authenticity to her music. A childhood spent in the foster care system of Detroit brought more than its share of heartbreak, and Magness credits music and a few advocates within the system for her beating the sad statistical odds that faced her as a foster child at risk.
Magness’ experiences forged a strength that she now channels into her music — and into her advocacy work for foster care. Not one to use the past to ask for pity for herself, Magness instead has used her success with music to bring attention to the foster care system; she takes her positions as Ambassador for Foster Care Alumni and Spokesperson for National Foster Care Month seriously.
Magness’ most recent album, “Stronger For It” (2012), is an arresting case in point of how Magness’ life and music are intertwined. Born out of a year that saw eight deaths of beloved friends and relatives and divorce, “Stronger For It” fully acknowledges the darkness in life; however, through Magness’ nuanced and powerful vocals and excellent band, the album avoids sounding morose or self-pitying.
A first for Magness, “Stronger For It” includes three songs she wrote, a step she says was “terribly frightening and completely exhilarating” but after what she refers to as “a pretty bumpy year”, now seemed like the right time to take the plunge and give literal voice to her own words. With “Stronger For It” leaping to the top of the Blues and Roots and Living Blues radio charts, appearing on a host of best-of lists for 2012, and garnering a fistful of Blues Music Awards nominations, audiences and critics agree with her choice.
Magness has five Blues Music Awards nominations from the Memphis-based Blues Foundation: B.B. King Entertainer of the Year, Album of the Year (“Stronger For It”), Song of the Year (“I Won’t Cry,” written by Magness and Dave Darling), Contemporary Blues Album of the Year (“Stronger For It”), and Contemporary Female Blues Artist of the Year.
In 2009, Magness won the BB King Entertainer Of The Year award (only the second woman to win it, Koko Taylor being the first); Magness was crowned Contemporary Blues Female Artist Of The Year in 2006, ’07 and ’09.
Magness fronts a five-piece band that showcases Magness’ vocals and adds a rich and varied texture to the music. In addition to Magness on lead vocals (and, occasionally, cigar box guitar), the band is Jim Alfredson on cool Hammond B3 organ and rousing keyboard, Zach Zunis on guitar, Gary Davenport on bass, and Matt Tecu on drums; several bandmates contribute harmony vocals.
Janiva Magness will appear at The Palms Playhouse, 13 Main St. Tickets are $20 and are available at Armadillo Music in Davis, Watermelon Music in Woodland, Pacific Ace Hardware in Winters and at the door if not sold out. For more information, call 530-795-1825 or visit palmsplayhouse.com or janivamagness.com.