Janiva Magness headlines Saturday's Bradenton Blues Festival

Janiva Magness: The Blues Foundation�s Contemporary Female Blues Artist of the year is known for powerful, soulful sets.
Janiva Magness: The Blues Foundation�s Contemporary Female Blues Artist of the year is known for powerful, soulful sets.

BRADENTON -- At the top of Janiva Magness' web page are two accolades. One is from the Blues Foundation, which named her the Contemporary Female Blues Artist of the year for 2015.

The other is from Mavis Staples, who wrote this about a recent Magness album:

�Sister Janiva's robust and soulful voice is showering each cut with determination to make us all fall in love. Her delivery is as always sincere and straight from the heart. Sweet Soul Music is alive and kickin'.

Someone asks Magness which of those compliments means more to her. "I don't have to choose," Magness said with a laugh. "I get to have both." Mavis is an icon of the highest order. What an exceptional human being. She wouldn't have said it if she didn't mean it. That's the kind of person she is. To have her say something like that is literally something that I could never imagine.

"And the Blues Foundation, the demographic of the nominating committee and the people who vote, they really understand the genre and how it has evolved and how it's continuing to evolve. To be honored by them, it just doesn't get any better."

Obviously, the music world is paying attention to Janiva Magness. On Saturday, Bradenton area residents will get a chance to pay attention to her as well. She'll be in town to headline the fourth annual Bradenton Blues Festival on the Riverwalk.

Actually, Paul Benjamin, who produces the Bradenton Blues Festival and who was recently named chairman of the Blues Foundation, shies away from calling Magness the headliner. He says she's just the last act on the lineup.

"I think of it as a whole lineup full of headliners," he said.

The other acts in the lineup are Girls With Guitars, Super Chikan and the Fighting Cocks, Larry Garner, Mike Zito and the Wheel, Joanna Connor and Rick Estrin and the Nightcats. In Layman Terms plays on a second stage between acts.

If you like live blues, you may have seen Magness and Rick Estrin and the Nightcats recently. Magness played at the Blue Rooster in Sarasota a few months back. "We blew the doors off that place, or at least that what I was told," she said, and Estrin did a show at Ace's Live in Bradenton in September.

"That club date was great," Estrin said. "It was really surprising how many people were there that I knew from playing blues cruises and just from being on the blues scene for all these years."

Estrin is also a Blues Foundation award winner. He took the honors for Best Harmonica Player in 2013.

As always, Benjamin has put together a lineup that flows through a range of blues styles. Magness describes her music as a mix of soul, blues and Americana. Estrin has a band with a drummer who's steeped in Dixieland and rock, a jazz bassist and virtuoso guitarist who "plays everything."

"All those influences come into contact with everything we play," Estrin said. "But when we play blues, we play blues. And whatever we play, we end up sounding like us."

There's more than just the music this year.

People who attend this year's Bradenton Blues Festival will also be guests at a wedding. A Canadian couple, Pamela Gay and Dale Miller, sent in the winning video in a contest associated with the blues festival. They'll be married at 2 p.m. in a five-minute ceremony on the blues festival stage.

She'll be wearing a blue dress and he's wearing blue suede shoes," said Johnette Isham, the executive director of Realize Bradenton, the organization behind the blues festival.

Also at the festival will be Joseph A. Rosen, a nationally known photographer who has attended and photographed every Bradenton Blues Festival so far. He's just published a new book of his photographs of blues greats, titled "Blues Hands." At least one of the photos in the book comes from the Bradenton Blues Festival. It's of Ruthie Foster, who headlined the first festival. Rosen will be at the year's festival to take pictures and autograph his book, which features some of the musicians from this year's lineup.

Tickets for this year's festival are "selling a little more briskly than last year," Isham, said, and last year's festival ended up being virtually sold out.

Festival lineup

Here's a look at the artists that will perform at the 2015 Bradenton Blues Festival.

11-11:40 a.m.: Girls With Guitars 2015. The latest in an ever-changing lineup of amazing young female blues guitarist. Some former members have gone on to great solo careers.

11:55 a.m.-12:55 p.m. Super Chikan and the Fighting Cocks. Super Chikan makes his guitars from discarded metal. He's reportedly Morgan Freeman's favorite blues artist, and plays regularly at a club Freeman owns.

1:10-2:10 p.m.: Larry Garner. Bayou Blues from a musician who's been called "perhaps the most talented songwriter in blues today."

2:25-3:25 p.m.: Mike Zito and the Wheel. Zito's best known as the co-founder of the Royal Southern Brotherhood. He formed the Wheel in 2012.

3:40-4:40 p.m.: Joanna Connor. One of the most acclaimed current stars in the blues scene in Chicago.

4:55-6:05 p.m.: Rick Estrin and the Nightcats. Estrin took the helm of the Nightcats after longtime leader Little Charlie Baty retired. The mix blues, rock, jazz and even Dixieland.

6:20-7:35 p.m.: Janiva Magness. The Blues Foundation's Contemporary Female Blues Artist of the year is known for powerful, soulful sets.

Between sets: In Layman Terms -- Teenage siblings Cole and Logan Layman play foot-stomping blues highlighted by Logan's Janis Joplin-style vocals.

Details: 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Dec. 5, Bradenton Riverwalk, 452 Third Ave. W., Bradenton. Tickets: $30 in advance ($40 at the gate), $10 children ages 4-12, children ages 4 and under free, $75 front-of-stage reserved seats. Information: bradentonbluesfestival.org.

Marty Clear, features writer/columnist, can be reached at 941-708-7919. Follow twitter.com/martinclear.

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