The first time I had the chance to see Janiva live was truly an emotional experience for me. I'd seen her concert at Bull Run being advertised on Facebook off and on and kind of just kept getting distracted.
Then on the day of the concert that night I decided to take a leap and go see her for the first time and at a venue I'd never visited. It's funny how the most wonderful things happen out of the blue.
I went in and sat down, not exactly sure what to expect since I'd not had the chance to see anyone other than B.B. King, Eric Clapton, or Aretha Franklin live with the Blues and Soul. You might say she re-started my journey into local and live music in such a way that I never expected was possible, nor that would lead me to a place where I can now produce and work to build something like this site.
She walks on stage with confidence and good humor. Immediately she engages her audience and makes them feel welcome and appreciated. And with spontaneity and professionalism in equal parts she moves from one soulful song to the next.
During the journey she gave us glimpses into her life and history, in a way that more intimately demonstrated where the emotion and passion in her music comes from. I'll leave those stories for her to tell. They are very personal and should only be shared by the artist herself.
Along the way I realized I was taking full deep breaths, probably the first that I had taken in a long time. The kind that show an emotional comfort and release which can be so rare in life. And something I find unique with the Blues in its ability to reach people and be so accessible to most anyone out there.
Janiva is truly a master of this. To say that I didn't realize how much I needed the music that night...that would be an understatement.
Since that first night I've had the chance to see her live again at the Iron Horse Music Hall and the intensity and passion is still there, consistent, and beautiful.
This amazing artist has the ability to take you from fun to tears to joy to peace in the space of 90-120 minutes. And leaves the audience refreshed and armed to face another day.
Her soulful voice dives deep into the sound of the Blues and pulls all the right levers and pushes all the right buttons that have led the greats of the genera into the history books of artistry.
Her latest album, Love Is An Army, takes a step further into the arena of Soul but never forgets the roots in the Blues. As she described it, Love is an army of many and sometimes of one. And with that love we can face the world one day at a time. (I'm paraphrasing.)
That description gave me chills. In a venue, decidedly, you'd not expect to find chills if you just walked in and never heard the music that they make available to the world....there they were...chills.
Working her way through the tracks of the new album you can enjoy what I call shades of mo-town through a lens tinted blue. Pain and joy blended in a way that feels authentic and beautiful.
The stand out song for me was Love to a Gunfight. With all that's going on in the world around us...this was an absolutely positive and raw emotional song of power and hope for the future. A look at what it's going to take for us all to come back together and work toward our common good and protection. A bright light in the darkness around so much of our world these days. This is my absolute favorite track from the new album.
Her delivery was spot on in every song, reflecting the not just the expertise on the album, but with the benefit of live music that always adds something special to any performance.
She, of course, blended in her back catalog of fan favorites. But she did it without getting stuck in the past and didn't focus only on the new while ignoring the past. This is something that some artists, no matter how good they are, get sucked into sometimes. The whole "do I play all the old crowd pleasers, or do I give them nothing but new and hope for the best" question.
Admittedly at first I wasn't sure how I felt about the new album (Love Is An Army). There was no doubt about the skill and great talent in it. For me there was a question of where did it fall in the genre.
I had the chance recently to sit down with Janiva and we touched on this a bit indirectly. For her, she's not singing straight Blues, she's in the Soul groove. And with that in my head I walked away and listened to the album again and suddenly it ALL clicked for this bluesman and any questions or hesitations I had before totally melted away.
It's clear to see why she won B.B. King Entertainer of the Year in 2009. An award that prior to Janiva had only been awarded to one other female artist, Koko Taylor. An award well earned.
With 7 Blues Music Awards and 26 nominations, Janiva truly is a powerhouse spanning and bridging what can sometimes be a gap between pure Blues and pure Soul. And she does it with the deftness of a master songstress.
I honestly can't put into strong enough words how much I would urge anyone to go see this truly magnificent artist live.
Take the time, go look at her tour schedule and makes sure you see her soon!
*This is an indepenent review and in no way was paid for or requested by the artists.