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“The voice is something that allows us to communicate past the limitations of the left brain,” Magness says. “It’s the primary instrument, the first instrument…and more than that, too. The voice has the power to link all the parts of ourselves—the brain, the heart, and even the spirit and the soul. That’s why the ability to sing is a gift, and I love nothing more than sharing it.”
Born in Detroit, Magness was inspired by the blues and country she heard listening to her father’s record collection, and by the vibrant music of the city’s classic Motown sound. By her teenage years, though, her life was in chaos. Having lost both parents to suicide as a young girl, traversed through 12 foster homes and given up a child for adoption by age 17 left Magness in the deepest despair.
She sought solace in music and began going to as many blues shows as possible, soaking up the sounds of her favorite artists, including Johnny Copeland, Otis Rush and Albert Collins. She immersed herself in records by James Brown, Aretha Franklin, Etta James and all the other R&B greats. Experiencing these artists live and listening to their recordings sparked Janiva and gave her life new direction and purpose.
Magness’ new album Love Wins Again is yet another evolutionary step for the soulful, elegant, award-winning singer-songwriter. It’s 11 core songs and two bonus tracks are built on a sonically sophisticated architecture that’s in full service of Magness’ remarkably flexible and generous voice—which can flow smoothly as champagne or churn up gravel on command. The album’s title is a mantra that resonates throughout: the concept of love as a physical, psychic and spiritual force that has the strength to conquer negativity, sadness and personal demons.
Love Wins Again marks Magness’ fifth collaboration with four-time Grammy nominated producer Dave Darling, whose instincts compel Magness to tap her deepest creative powers and lead her songs to unpredictable places. He has become her key songwriting foil and is the primary architect of the album’s gorgeous textural sound, which blends acoustic and electric instruments, flourishes of Latin percussion, horns and an enlightened approach to the studio to create perfect settings for her vocal prowess. And there’s more than range and craft to Magness’ voice. Her singing rings with sincerity. Since launching her career with 1992’s More Than Live, she has grown to become an accomplished storyteller and diviner of the heart.
Following up her last album is no easy task. Original, from 2014, marked her place as a songwriter and raised the creative bar for her collaborations with Darling. It entered the Billboard blues chart, where her releases routinely appear, at number five and topped the blues radio charts. Original also scored her seventh Blues Music Award, for Contemporary Blues Female Artist. In addition, the album received a Best Song nomination for “Let Me Breathe,” co-written with Darling. The same honor was bestowed upon the songwriting team in 2013 for “I Wont’ Cry”. Altogether, Magness has been nominated for 25 Blues Music Awards and follows the legendary Koko Taylor as the second woman to win the highly coveted B.B. King Entertainer of the Year award.
In addition to her musical accomplishments, Magness reaches out to help others. She is a Spokesperson for Casey Family Programs National Foster Care Month Campaign, as well as an Ambassador for both Foster Care Alumni of America and Child Welfare League of America.
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