After Janiva Magness added a 2016 Grammy nomination to her 26 Blues Music Award nominations — with seven wins, including Entertainer of the Year — she might have taken at least a short rest on her laurels.
Instead, one of the preeminent voices in contemporary American roots music has raised the bar for herself. Magness’ 14th album, Love Is an Army, is a brilliantly crafted bridge between the past and present, blending the echoes of classic soul and Americana music with timeless themes of love and the very contemporary sound of protest.
Love Is an Army’s dozen songs reverberate with the timeless character of the Memphis Rhythm & Blues patented by the Stax and Hi Records studios, especially in tracks like “Back to Blue,” which opens the album and sets its tone, and “Hammer,” which features Grammy winning blues legend Charlie Musselwhite on harmonica. Another Tennessee music city, Nashville, is the geographic touchstone for the title number, a duet with Texas singer-songwriter Bryan Stephens and for “On and On,” with Poco frontman Rusty Young on pedal steel guitar. Like Magness, both Stephens and Young are on Blue Élan Records. Other guest artists include the legendary Grammy-winning R&B singer Delbert McClinton, Grammy-nominated Mississippi hill-country blues torchbearer Cedric Burnside, and Americana Music Award-nominated bluegrass guitar and banjo virtuoso Courtney Hartman from the band Della Mae.