Janiva Magness & Mac Arnold: Two Genuine Blues Survivors

Jim Santella By

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The blues has suffered through tales of woe and thoughts about what's gonna happen next. It gives us plenty to think about. But it's not always sad. Much of what is being shared contains positive ideas about how things can turn around, and how life goes on. We live the adventures long enough to share our experiences with others, and then we're done.

Long before the music gets old, however, we have the opportunity to live it again and again through the blues tradition. Two blues singers are releasing new albums that share their experiences with us.

Janiva Magness
Do I Move You?

Singing from the heart, Janiva Magness interprets timeless roots blues from way back when, as well as Motown R&B impressions from those years when she was just a youngster. Both kinds of blues left an impression on her, and both have become a part of her soul. She lives the music and shares that feeling openly. Her program for this, her seventh album, includes influences from early Mississippi Delta blues pioneers as well as from those who made Chicago and Detroit great powerhouses of musical activity.

Magness is from Detroit, but has been based in Los Angeles for the past twenty years. The whole world of blues contributes to her soulful delivery. She belts 'em with a powerful spirit and unleashes a whirlwind of emotion every time. The title track, Nina Simone's "Do I Move You, comes with hearty, built-in blues sensuality; Magness delivers a natural interpretation with a universal appeal that could have come from any part of the world. Don't try to pigeonhole her. She represents the blues world in its entirety.

Through her interpretations, Stealin' Sugar and "I'm Just a Prisoner come from early blues roots when Ma Rainey and Bessie Smith told us what for. Magness convinces with her down-home delivery and raw-boned demeanor. "Workin' on My Baby, "A Man Size Job, "I Give Up and "Bad Blood come from those years when blues was being reinvented by pioneers such as Muddy Waters and Otis Rush, and folks north of the Mississippi were spreadin' the word casually.

I'm Just a Prisoner, "I Can't Stop Cryin', and "I Want You to Have Everything come from Motown moods that thrill the spirit with deep, soulful feelings. Her universal appeal can't be overstated. Magness lays it on the line, asking Do I Move You?

Yes, she certainly does on this recommended release.

Visit Janiva Magness on the web.

Mac Arnold & Plate Full O' Blues
Nothin' to Prove
Self Produced

In a program of originals, veteran bluesman Mac Arnold sings about where the blues has been and where it's headed. His band provides a clear accompaniment that does his voice right, giving the program plenty of down-home comfort. His voice resembles that of B.B. King—and yet no part of his program is any kind of copy. The singer, as well as his stellar band, works from original sources that squeeze the blues from heartfelt experience.

With "Ghetto Blue, Arnold sings about a large part of that experience. He's been there, done that, and has nothing to prove. Arnold, who began his professional career as a left-handed electric bassist, worked with Muddy Waters in Chicago, moved to Los Angeles where he worked on the set of Soul Train, backed Bill Withers, and moved back to South Carolina in the '80s, where he leads his band in comfortable blues comfort.

Harmonica ace and pianist Max Hightower gives Arnold adventurous accompaniment. Tradition melds with current events as band and singer go on about where we stand. Guitarist Austin Brashier gives "The Truth a persuasive electric charm while Arnold tells his story with conviction. Pianist Rudy Wyatt romps with "I' Don't Know and strolls unmercifully with "Back to the Country, capturing every ounce of passion from both.

As Arnold sings "She's So Mean to Me, you can feel the blues running through your veins. It's a classic situation with soulful guitar and harp solos and fills built right into the singer's passionate tale:

When we first got together, baby, everything was honey sweet
When we first got together, baby, everything was honey sweet
But you just don't move me like you used to
You gotta stop being mean to me.

And Arnold goes on to explain how things have turned sour, what can be done to improve the situation, and what he hopes will become of it. His blues is filled with family values and positive outcomes. With nothin' to prove, he's sure good at getting right to the heart of the matter and leaving us with a recommended souvenir of his robust blues storytelling.

Visit Mac Arnold on the web.

Tracks and Personnel

Do I Move You?

Tracks: I'm Just a Prisoner (of Your Good Lovin'); Workin' On My Baby; You Were Never Mine; I Can't Stop Cryin'; Don't Let Your Memories; I Want You to Have Everything; Do I Move You; Bad Blood; I Give Up; Stealin' Sugar; A Man Size Job.

Personnel: Janiva Magness: vocals, background vocals, rubboard (10); Colin Linden, guitar, background vocals; Rick Holmstrom: guitar; Jeff Turmes: guitar, bass, baritone saxophone, tenor saxophone; Gary Davenport: bass; Richard Bell: piano, organ; John Whynot: electric piano, tambourine, background vocals; Stephen Taylor Hodges: drums; Jessie Alexander: background vocals.

Nothin' to Prove

Tracks: Blues for You; Nothin' to Prove; Call Mac Arnold; I Don't Know; (Get On) Back to the Country; Ghetto Blue; Going Back Home; The Truth; She's So Mean to Me; (Get On) Back to the Country - Part 2 "Live.

Personnel: Mac Arnold: lead vocal, bass; Max Hightower: harmonica, guitar, piano; Austin Brashier: guitar, background vocals; Mark McMakin: bass, background vocals; Mike Whitt: drums; Rudy "Blue Shoes Wyatt: piano (4,5,7); Jim Peterman: Hammond B3 organ (5).


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