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March/April 2012

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Janiva Magness
Stronger For It
Alligator Records

Janiva Magness

We’ve all experience our share of life’s tragedies. Lord knows the last four years haven’t been easy for me, and judging by the content of her new disc, Stronger For It, the last couple haven’t been easy for my friend Janiva Magness either. The good news is that we all emerge on the other side stronger for the experiences life has dealt us, and a new day does shine. Stronger For It is to my mind the strongest record that Janiva has ever released and we’re all better for it.

I have to start out by noting the Janiva used her road band when recording this disc, and they all know I’m a fan of their work. Matt Tecu on drums, Zach Zunis on guitar, Jim Alfredson on keys and Gary “Scruff” Davenport on bass are an amazing group of musicians that Janiva’s had the good fortune to work with over the past couple of years and they all perform admirably on this disc. But enough of that, let’s get to the music.

“There It Is” is the first of three cuts that Janiva wrote for this disc, and from the beginning she bares her soul to the listener, “I never thought I’d want to hurt a man so bad, but baby, there it is!” Janiva had to deal with the break up of a long term relationship and the pain is very real, “Don’t you come back here like some crying little baby, there ain’t no nursery here, long ago you had the charm to pull it off…but those days have long disappeared.” It’s over, good bye, time to move on.

Janiva’s pain is very real and she continues to share her pain in our next cut, “I Won’t Cry.” Janiva is a survivor and she will make it through, “I get cut, I might bleed…but I won’t cry.” Next up is a Tom Waits song, “Make It Rain,” and Janiva continues to struggle with her emotions. “You took all my money…and my best friend…you know the story…here it comes again….I have no pride, I have no shame…you got to make it rain.” All alone in the world, Janiva knows a brighter day is coming and after the rain will come the sun.

“Whistlin’ in the Dark” is the third song that Janiva contributed to this disc and here we find her reflecting on the security of the relationship she was in, “Well I suppose, if I was telling the truth now, there’ll be no way for me to get over you…but I’ll keep pretending…I’ll just keep on pretending…and whistlin’ in the dark”. Janiva ponders her role in the end of the relationship but is starting to find the strength to move on with her life.

The percussion of Brie Darling lends a rhythmic tribal beat to out next tune, “I’m Alive,” as Janiva moves on to the beginnings of a new day, “Oh…if I don’t get you back, I’ll cover up them bloody tracks…cause sorrow, hope and I’m hiding my dying pride…cause I’m alive!” The acoustic guitar of producer Dave Darling provides the intro for Janiva’s take on Grace Potter’s “Ragged Company.” At the end of the day all anyone has to depend on is themselves and that’s the lesson here, “Oh…it’s lonely…without is mighty cold…I don’t want to live this way…I’m scared of growing old…it’s hard to heed the warning…when you cannot see the crime…the only way to remember…is to forget in a rhyme….I am my own ragged company!”

The conflict continues in Janiva’s take on Ike Turner’s “You Got What You Wanted.” “You got what you wanted…now you don’t want what you got…once I was a thrill to you…suddenly…I’m not…was it my mistake…to give you everything I got…you got what you wanted…now you don’t want what you got!” Breaking up is hard and the reasons for doing so are many as we all experience those periods of doubt where none of it seems real and wonder if we are at fault. Coming to realize that’s not the case is part of the healing process we all have to go through.

The self doubt continues as Janiva moves on to our next tune, “I Don’t Want To Do Wrong.” Janiva struggles to stay true even though her heart is telling her that she’s probably lost this fight. Jim Alfredon’s work on the B3 echo the despair that Janiva is feeling as she struggles to find her way out. “But then again my dear….and I didn’t hear…a comforting word from you…to make me see…that you were still in love with me…so if by chance you found another girl…love her and wish you all the happiness in the world…I’ve fallen in love…and I can’t break loose…I hope I find happiness too!” Here’s hoping you do find the happiness you’re looking for Janiva!

“I thought I knew you…I was in for a surprise…I let my love flow…from my heart into your eyes…and then I found out…that there was nothing I could know or guess about you…you’d go as far as you could go”. “I Thought I Knew You” represents the journey to realizing that you don’t know your partner as well as you thought you did and the end result is just slowly growing apart as a couple and there’s nothing more that can be done. Our next cut, “Dirty Water,” has a swamp feel to it as Janiva lets her man know, “I don’t need you hanging round my door…trying to drag me back down to the shore…and I ain’t going to drink…your dirty water no more!” Enough is enough and Janiva’s ready to move on.

Next up is a song that Paul Thorn co-wrote, “Things Left Undone.” We all face a final reckoning and that is the time to reflect on your life, “When your life is over….and you’re reaching the end…river of Jordan…is around the bend…will be counting…the trophies you’ve won…or will you look back on…the things left undone?” Among life's rewards are always regrets about things we would have done differently and hopefully we’ll all take a minute to reflect on the good and the bad as we move from this life to the next.

Janiva closes out this amazing disc with a rendition of Ray Wylie Hubbard’s “Whoop and Holler.” The story is one of healing and redemption as Janiva overcomes her troubles to move forward to the new day. An energetic song of hope and release, Janiva comes full circle as she moves on with her life.

As one who owns all of Janiva’s CD releases, I can honestly say that this record is by far her most satisfying for me. She deals honestly with her pain and her struggles to understand the forces working in her life and manages to come out the other side, Stronger For It. This CD stands on its own as one of the great discs of 2012 and will be recognized as such. But what’s more important to me, the writer is that my friend made it through to the other side and is still standing! Stronger For It is available through Janiva’s website at and from Janiva herself at every show she does. It’s definitely a disc you’ll be glad you own.

--- Kyle Deibler


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