Trax 061914

By Bliss Bowen 06/20/2014

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JANIVA MAGNESS, Original (Fathead): 3.5 out of 5 stars
The blues diva’s 11th album is her first to focus primarily on her own songwriting. Earthier than 2012’s overly slick “Stronger for It” (whose most memorable tracks were her three co-writes with producer Dave Darling), “Original” pulses with a steady soul groove that Magness rides with robust aplomb; always a dynamic, formidably assured vocalist, she’s rarely sounded better than she does here. Highlights: “When You Were My King” (co-written with Lauren Bliss and Andrew Lowden), the stomping “I Need a Man,” “Mountain,” “With Love” (a delightful duet with Dan Navarro). CD release party at the Levitt Pavilion Thursday, June 26.

RODNEY CROWELL, Tarpaper Sky (New West): 4 out of 5 stars
The venerated, Grammy-winning songwriter reteamed with his hit-making “Diamonds & Dirt” band — drummer Eddie Bayers, bassist Michael Rhodes and invaluable guitarist Steuart Smith — for this solidly satisfying collection. Shifting comfortably between roadhouse rockers (“Frankie Please,” “Somebody’s Shadow”), wise confessionals (“Famous Last Words of a Fool in Love,” the Mary Karr co-write “God I’m Missing You”) and literate story songs (the Guy Clark-dedicated “The Flyboy & the Kid”), Crowell & Co. sound happily liberated from anyone’s expectations but their own. At the Troubadour in West Hollywood Friday.

MIKE MATTISON, You Can’t Fight Love (Landslide): 3.5 out of 5 stars
The longtime Derek Trucks Band vocalist calls on Tedeschi Trucks Band and Scrapomatic bandmates for good, greasy backing on his mostly original solo debut. Amidst the funky horns and soulful organ the sonic focus, understandably, is his limber tenor, which spins from seductive croons to ballsy growls. Highlights: “Gin House Blues,” “Life is Crazy” (“Life is crazy and so am I”), a silky treatment of Tedeschi Trucks’ “Midnight in Harlem.” Should appeal to fans of Tedeschi Trucks and Al Green.

ANANSY CISSE, Mali Overdrive (Riverboat/World Music): 3 out of 5 stars
The Malian producer and guitarist, who was forced to relocate to Bamako when militants invaded his northern hometown, makes his proper solo debut with an engaging set that lightens the hypnotic drones of most desert blues with a melancholy yet sweet melodicism that should appeal to Western listeners. Accompanied by bass, calabash, ngoni and soku fiddle, his nimble, muscular fretwork is most striking on “Agobene,” “Sekou Amadou” (which samples a speech by Nelson Mandela), “Horey” and the lilting peace call “Gomni.”


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