Blues Bytes


May 2010

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Janiva Magness
The Devil is an Angel Too
Alligator Records

Janiva MagnessIt’s a testament to the fire that burns within Janiva Magness’ soul that she continues to hone her craft, to continue to give performances that satisfy her need to share both her pain and happiness with the world. That’s the premise of her new disc on Alligator Records, The Devil is an Angel Too. This is a great disc, so let’s give it a spin.

The title track is up first. And we’re not sure who’s knocking on Janiva’s door. Is it the devil? Perhaps an angel? Let’s find out. Whoever it is, he’ll definitely have to pass muster before he gets in the door. “You look just like an angel…sounds so bright and true…seems so sweet…coming down my street…you know the devil is an angel too!” The truth never really comes out so let’s move on to our next cut, “I’m Gonna Tear Your Playhouse Down.” Here we’ve got a player whose moves aren’t going to work on Janiva the same way they’ve worked on others. “I got news for you baby…hope it don’t hit you too hard…one of these days…when you’re out playing…I’m going to catch you all gone…I’m gonna tear…your playhouse down!”

But every once in awhile, Janiva lets her guard down and that’s what happens in “Slipped, Tripped and Fell in Love.” “When you touch me…I just lose control…I’m finding myself…baby…I’m wanting more…more….more…slipped, tripped and fell in love when you slipped your love on me!”

“Birds flying high…you know how I feel…sun up in the sky…you know how I feel…breeze drifting on by…you know how I feel….it’s a new dawn…it’s a new day…it’s new life for me…yeah!” Janiva lets us know in “I’m Feelin’ Good” that things are looking up and she’s excited to be moving forward in her life. Another slow ballad, “Weeds like Us,” written by her husband Jeff Turmes is up next. “Every day is an act of will…weeds like us are hard to kill…weeds like us are so hard to kill….I lost touch with you one day…watched you walk away from me…believe I failed you some way…let you go too easily.” Whatever the circumstances were that caused him to walk away…both he and Janiva are survivors that will live another day…cause….”weeds like us are hard to kill.”

Up next is “Walkin’ in the Sun” and things are starting to look up for Janiva. “I’ve been walking in the dark long enough to know…I finally seen the light…I’ve been losing enough to know…when I find the one…even a blind man can tell…when he’s walking in the sun!” Times have been hard for Janiva and it’s good to hear her feeling good about the way thing are going. Optimistic notes emanate from Zach Zunis’ guitar and echo Janiva’s feelings of joy.

Our next cut, “End of Our Road,” finds Janiva realizing it’s time to move on and leave this particular man behind. “Oh darling…think about all the nights…you let me at home lonely…you only did it…cause you know I loved you only…running around…with every girl in town…I’m telling you boy…no longer will I be your clown…the road’s got to end somewhere!” Janiva’s had enough and she’s definitely moving on. “Save Me” is up next and finds Janiva wanting to hang onto a relationship she knows has run its course. “I know it’s over…what we had is gone…I know I should let it go…and let you just move on…I still keep searching for…some kind of way…to hold on a little longer…don’t you think you could….save me a little piece of your time?” Her wish is to still occupy a place in his life and that’s just not going to happen.

Fortunately, in “I Want to do Everything for You,” Janiva has a man she loves who loves her back. “I want to wake you every morning with a….good morning kiss…I want to kiss you to sleep the same way…cause I know you like this…I want to do everything for you…cause that’s all that a woman can do…she loves a man like I love you!” This one’s obviously a keeper and Janiva’s doing everything in her power to show him just how much she truly loves him.

Gary Davenport’s strong bass line introduces our next tune, “Your Love Made a U-Turn,” a situation where the object of Janiva’s affection abruptly changed his mind and left Janiva standing in the street. What happened? Who knows but hopefully Janiva will move on soon. Her bad luck continues though in “Homewrecker.” “You look like…you could be taken for family…but that’s your style…homewrecker…I don’t know what came over me…that night…all I know…once I had a key…I turned around…and lost everything to you…homewrecker!”

The Devil is An Angel Too closes with another song by Janiva’s husband, Jeff, “Turn Your Heart in My Direction.” “Point your heart in my direction…let it speak…all I need for your affection…makes me weak…I will worry…I will break…'til my will breaks like a wave…and I listen…with a chasten enemy…send your heart in my direction…like a prayer.” Janiva’s heart is definitely reaching out for his and hopefully his heart will turn in the right direction to make her happy.

The Devil is An Angel Too is an outstanding disc by Janiva. Superb tunes, outstanding vocals and the tremendous backing talents of her band all contribute to what is arguably her finest disc to date. Janiva tore the roof off of the Blues tent at the Beale Street Music Festival performing her new material, so track her down this festival season and enjoy. It doesn’t get much better than this. Easily in my top ten for the year and a disc that will garner Janiva a number of BMA nominations at the end of the year.

Well done, J!

--- Kyle Deibler


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