Janiva Magness — one of the premier blues and R&B singers in the world today and recipient of many top Blues Music Association awards — is a living, breathing, one-woman masterclass in blues performance and, not coincidentally, overcoming staggering odds and finding ways to help others.
Magness released her latest album, “Original,” in late June, and she will perform at 8:30 p.m. Friday, July 11, The Palms Playhouse, 13 Main St. in Winters.
Magness has a voice that is by turns rawly honest, heart-achingly nuanced, unabashedly sultry, richly mature, caressingly gentle and indignantly outraged. While performing, Magness throws her entire being into the show, bringing each song into full, breathing life; she doesn’t merely sing the songs, she lives each song as she gives them voice.
Her vocal chops are augmented by her natural, bold, unself-conscious and downright masterful stage presence. Magness strides fearlessly across the stage, bends at the waist to fairly literally sing from the gut, rests her fingertips on the corner of bandmate Jim Alfredson’s Hammond B3 keyboard in classic blueswoman fashion and is never less than 100 percent engaged in what she is doing. The result is an electrifying and dynamic show.
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 uses 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. On her website, and among the usual tabs — music, news, store, tour — is foster care.
Magness’ most recent album, “Original,” is the first of her 10 albums on which she wrote or co-wrote the majority of the songs. On “Original,” Magness mixes rock, roots, R&B and soul in with blues. “Original” debuted at No. 3 on the Roots Music Report charts and No. 5 on the Billboard Blues charts.
Magness has won a number of plum Blues Music Awards from the Memphis-based Blues Foundation over the past several years, including the coveted BB King Entertainer of the Year award (only the second woman to win it, Koko Taylor being the first) in 2009, Contemporary Blues Female Artist of the Year in 2006, 2007, 2009 and 2013, and Song of the Year for “I Won’t Cry” in 2013.
Magness fronts a five-piece band that showcases her 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 Alfredson on keyboards, Zach Zunis on guitar, Gary Davenport on bass and Matt Tecu on drums; several bandmates contribute harmony vocals.
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.