Bury Him at the Crossroads

Janiva Magness

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Bury Him at the Crossroads Review

by Chris Nickson

Magness, who won a 2004 W.C. Handy Award as Best Contemporary Blues Female Artist, seems cut from the same mold as singers like Lou Ann Barton -- there's a lovely rasp and conviction in her singing that brings sometimes mundane material alive. Working with a small band this time around, she can focus more on her singing, rather than becoming lost in the arrangements, and, in fact, it's the acoustic material here that serves her best, such as the interpretation of J.B. Lenoir's "The Whale Has Swallowed Me." At times the ensemble (which features Colin Linden on guitar) sounds a bit like a very professional bar band, but Magness has the class to cut through that and take it all a notch higher. The title track -- presumably a reference to Robert Johnson -- is a beautiful piece of work, haunting in its simplicity, and "The Soul of a Man" shows that the line between blues and soul is blurred indeed (and you could add gospel into that mix). It would be good to hear her with more classic material -- a lot of the songs here are good, but not completely memorable. However, there's no doubt that she deserves her award, and her future looks justifiably rosy.

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