The Blues Foundation named Magness the B.B. King Entertainer of the Year in 2009, becoming only the second woman, after Koko Taylor, to be so honored. The award was presented by B.B. King himself and Bonnie Raitt. In 2014 she released her first album of all originals entitled Original which earned her the award for Song of the Year. Magness has earned seven Blues Music Awards with 26 similar nominations.USA Today stated, "Magness is a blues star."
Magness was born in Detroit, Michigan, but suffered the tragedy of losing both of her parents to suicide before she reached her mid-teens. Placed in a series of a dozen foster homes, Magness was pregnant at the age of 17, and gave her baby daughter up for adoption.
Having been initially inspired by the music in her father's record collection, an underage Magness attended an Otis Rush concert in Minneapolis that changed her outlook. Magness later recalled, "Otis played as if his life depended on it. There was a completely desperate, absolute intensity. I knew, whatever it was, I needed more of it." Studying to become an engineer, she worked in a recording studio in Saint Paul, Minnesota, when she was coerced into doing some backing singing. Her work, which included backing Kid Ramos and R. L. Burnside, led her to Phoenix, Arizona and in forming her own band, the Mojomatics. They enjoyed local success before Magness relocated in 1986 to Los Angeles. Her first album More Than Live was released in 1991, her second release titled It Takes One to Know One, was released in 1997. In 1999, Magness starred in a stage production of It Ain't Nothin' But the Blues, at the David Geffen Theater in Westwood, Los Angeles.
Three independent releases followed before Magness was signed to a recording contract by NorthernBlues Music. They released Bury Him at the Crossroads (2004) and Do I Move You? (2006). Both albums were co-produced by Magness and Colin Linden, with the former earning them a Canadian Maple Blues Award for Producers Of The Year.Do I Move You? reached number 8 on the Billboard Blues Album Chart.
In 2008, Magness signed with Alligator Records releasing What Love Will Do. The Chicago Sun-Times stated, "Her songs run the gamut of emotions from sorrow to joy. A master of the lowdown blues who is equally at ease surrounded by funk or soul sounds, Magness invigorates every song with a brutal honesty." She toured widely in Canada, Europe and across the United States.
In 2013, Magness was nominated in five categories for more Blues Music Awards (BMA). In 2014, Magness left Alligator Records re-launching her own label, Fathead Records, and released Original, saying, "I've had an entire career up to this point of being an interpreter of other people's songs. And I've been fine with that. But it became necessary to change that thinking. This record is titled Original because its eleven original tracks. I'm co-writer on seven of the eleven tracks."
Magness won her seventh BMA, the 'Contemporary Blues Female Artist' category, at the 2015 Blues Music Awards ceremony. In 2016, she signed to Blue Elan Records which is also the home to Jack Tempchin, Gerry Buckley, and Rusty Baker. Her most recent release was 2016's, Love Wins Again. The album debuted at number 5 on the Billboard Blues Chart, number 2 on iTunes Blues, reached number 1 on the Blues radio chart, and spent two months on the Americana radio chart. In late 2016, she performed at the Americana Music Conference and Festival in Nashville, to further cement her cross-over into the genre.
Magness' 13th studio album Love Wins Again charted on the Billboard Heatseekers Top 25, Billboard Blues Chart in the Top 5, Living Blues Radio at #2, and earned her first Grammy Award nomination.
|1991||More Than Live||Fathead Records|
|1997||It Takes One to Know One||Fathead Records|
|1999||My Bad Luck Soul||Blues Leaf Records|
|2001||Blues Ain't Pretty||Blues Leaf Records|
|2003||Use What You Got||Blues Leaf Records|
|2004||Bury Him at the Crossroads||NorthernBlues Music|
|2006||Do I Move You?||NorthernBlues Music|
|2008||What Love Will Do||Alligator Records|
|2010||The Devil is an Angel Too||Alligator Records|
|2012||Stronger for It||Alligator Records|
|2016||Love Wins Again||Blue Elan|
|2017||Blue Again||Blue Elan|
|2018||Love Is An Army||Blue Elan|