Change in the Weather: Janiva Magness Sings John Fogerty (Blue Élan)
It’s been a big year for Grammy-nominated, L.A.-based blues artist Janiva Magness. A few months ago, we saw her open up about her life in painstaking and often painful detail through her memoir Weeds Like Us. That book took us through Magness’ life in incredible detail, offering context to much of her work to date. It’s interesting, then, that the next album to come out after that is a tribute to somebody else’s work.
John Fogerty is a name that will be familiar to just about every music fan. The former frontman with Creedence Clearwater Revival is responsible for a number of tracks that would fill out the Great American Songbook. Soulful and rootsy, his music would appear to be perfect for the Magness treatment, and that proves to be the case.
“One of the things I love about this album is that people already connect with so many of these songs,” Magness says on the press release accompanying the release. “I connect with these songs. And for me, connecting with people is one of the reasons I love to sing … I have to sing. I know we’re really all part of one big community and, at the heart of everything that unites and divides us, we still have so much in common and so much that we can share. If music like this can bring us all together a little more, then I’m more than happy to be a vehicle for it.”
Magness covers Fogerty’s solo material as well as Creedence classics. Maybe it’s subjective on behalf of this writer, but the CCR tunes just stand out and glow here. “Lodi,” a duet with local country hero Sam Morrow, is both warm and heart-wrenching. That said, another duet — this time with the great Taj Mahal — sees Magness taking on “Don’t You Wish It Was True” from Fogerty’s 2007 Revival album. It’s not a song that people might jump to when thinking about Fogerty, so relatively recent is it, but it sounds gorgeous here.
And then there are the songs that you do jump to; Magness’ slowed-right-down take on “Have You Ever Seen the Rain” is breath-takingly beautiful, an exercise in stripped down vulnerability. “Bad Moon Rising,” slide guitar and all, is sweetly playful, while “Fortunate Son” is one of the more faithful covers on here.
Ultimately, Change in the Weather is a record that both pays tribute to the intended artist while doing a fine job of reinterpreting much of the material. In doing so, it serves as a tribute to the talents of Fogerty and Magness.