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March/April 2006

Janiva Magness
Do I Move You?

Janiva Magness

Janiva Magness' Do I Move You? (Northern Blues) is a great CD from the woman nominated for ‘Contemporary Blues Female Artist Of The Year’ in the 2006 Blues Music Awards, which used to be called the W.C.Handy Awards. Incidentally, this was her third nomination for these awards, and she has previously won awards such as the B.B.King Award for Musical Excellence & the Jim Croce Award for Ourstanding Achievement In Rhythm & Blues.

This CD follows up Bury Him At The Crossroads, and it’s her 6th album altogether and second for NorthernBlues – a record company that is rapidly becoming known for the quality of the music that it releases.

Most of the tracks were recorded in Los Angeles, with just two recorded in Nashville, and there is a superb mix of music amongst the 11 tracks on the album. Guitarist/bassist Jeff Turmes wrote three of the tracks, Colin Linden (also guitar on the album) wrote one, and there are covers of tracks by Willie Dixon, Delbert McClinton and Nina Simone, amongst the others.

The album opens with “I’m Just A Prisoner,” a track that Marcia Ball made a good job of on her 1997 album “Let Me Play With Your Poodle.” This version is at least as good as Ball’s, if not better! A strong, slow moving song that shows off Janiva’s voice and range superbly.

Track two is probably my favourite on this CD – a cover of Willie Dixon’s “Working On Me Baby.” This a good solid blues track that shows just how much Janiva understands what constitutes a good song for blues listeners. Delbert McClinton’s ballad “You Were Never Mine” follows – a moody, atmospheric, song and very well executed.

The first of the Jeff Turmes tracks,“I Can’t Stop Cryin,“ is a good taster of the talent of his song writing, and it suits Janiva’s style really well. His next track on the album, “Don’t Let Your Memories,” is pure Bessie Smith-type blues. Bessie Smith, or Victoria Spivey would have been right at home with this track and Janiva shows that she can adapt easily to different styles as well as different tempos.

The title track of this CD is a Nina Simone song, and typically it’s full of emotion. It’s well presented, sung beautifully, and the backing is top notch – great guitar work and some superb organ in the background adds to the whole package. This track comes a very, very close second to “Working On Me Baby” as my favourite.

--- Terry Clear

Astute song choices, a strong cast of supporting musicians and incredible vocal performances all highlight the latest release, Do I Move You?, by Janiva Magness. Do I Move You? is the second record produced by Colin Linden and Janiva for NorthernBlues Music, and it captures Janiva at her best --- strong, confident and poised to remain at the forefront of the contemporary blues women of today.

“I’m Just a Prisoner (Of Your Good Lovin’)” finds Janiva satisfied and happy. She’s got a good man who loves her right and heaven help her at the pain that would ensue should he ever leave. Here’s hoping he never does. “Workin’ On Me Baby,” a Willie Dixon tune, finds Janiva as the object of affection of an evil man….he’s workin’ on her at every turn and she’s not sure why. Obviously he has touched her heart but it may not be a good thing. Watch out girl!

I find Janiva’s rendition of the classic Delbert McClinton tune, “You Were Never Mine,” one of the great covers found on Do I Move You? Fred Litwin, the president of NorthernBlues Music, comments in the liner notes that “our jaws were frequently on the floor as we heard her lay down the vocals.” Her vocal for “You Were Never Mine” had to be one of those occasions. Janiva’s gift is her ability to take ownership of a song and interpret it as her own. In this case you feel her pain, you understand her longing and you hope that once in your life you can love this intensely. Very well done, J!

“I Can’t Stop Cryin” features the original songwriting of Janiva’s husband, Jeff Turmes, who contributes three songs to the record. Jeff’s an astute songwriter and “I Can’t Stop Cryin” finds Janiva conflicted over being set free by her man. On the one hand, it’s what she needs; on the other, she hates to see him go. “If I ever stop cryin' I’m afraid I’m going to catch on fire” is a wonderfully clever lyric that perfectly illustrates the paradigm that Janiva finds herself in. “Don’t Let Your Memories,” another Turmes song, indicates that he did leave. We find out that he moved out to Memphis to live with a sales girl who he eventually will hurt in time. The lesson in the song is to “don’t let your memories make a fool of you!”

The mood brightens with “I Want You to Have Everything.” We find Janiva in love again and perfectly happy with her man. The feeling is strong … it feels right and it’s good to know that she’s happy. Things slow way down with Janiva’s sultry interpretation of the title track, “Do I Move You,” by Nina Simone. The correct answer to the question is, “it pleases me.” Obviously another jaw-dropping vocal, I can see in my mind’s eye the reactions of the recording crew as Janiva prowled the studio to record this song.

“Bad Blood” speaks to Janiva’s gene pool. Obviously, the inclination to sing blues, raise hell and make strong choices in life all had to come from somewhere. The third Turmes song on the record, “Bad Blood,” indicates that her “daddy was a real good man but momma was a rolling stone!” Girl, you turned out ok. “I Give Up” finds Janiva longing for a rest. She’s worked hard, lost more money than she cares to remember and just needs to rest. “Worked so hard…I want to be lazy….tired of trying to be so tough….I give up.” We all hope she gets back up on her feet.

“Stealin Sugar” finds Janiva at odds with the law over her choices of young men. The girl ends up with 10 years in prison and proudly tells the judge, “when I get out I’m going to steal again!” Got to steal that sugar before you get too old enjoy it! Following up “Stealin Sugar” with “A Man Size Job,” the classic Denise LaSalle song, was just a brilliant choice to close out the record. She’s obviously found the boy who can “do a man size job” and proudly tells everyone to just get out of the way and let him work.

Do I Move You? --- the obvious answer to the question is, yes, you do. This is a wonderful contemporary blues record by an artist who is at the top of her game. Backed by an outstanding group of musicians whose inspired playing contributes to the strength of this album, Janiva has produced what is her finest record to date. In her liner notes she dedicates this record to hussies everywhere --- strong women true to themselves --- their sexuality and their right to live according to their truth. Janiva has always been a hussy and her truth mandates that she sing the blues. We’re lucky she does!

--- Kyle Deibler


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