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The Many Worlds of Valerie June

It’s hard to not like Valerie June and her music. Here is what Andy Gill wrote about her most recent album “In Order of Time”: “Her follow-up to 2013’s sublime “Pushin’ Against A Stone” finds Valerie June expanding her unique blend of blues, soul and mountain music to create a distinctive hybrid in which past and future coalesce with gentle power.” What is interesting to me was that the first song I liked by her is a rocker (above) and the next is a tranquil and delicate piece sang on a chair by a pond. She is that sort of artist.
Valerie June Hockett — who performs as Valerie June — was  born in Tennessee, lived in Memphis and has relocated to Brooklyn. (Click here or on the image for Amazon, here for iTunes) for more on the album.

The 32-year-old singer song writer mixes a lot of different genres. Her Wikipedia profile quotes her as describing her music as “combining blues, gospel and Appalachian folk, in a style that she describes as ‘organic moonshine roots music.’ ”

By coincidence, USA Today published a small story about June yesterday. She said that she now is listening to a great deal of Patsy Cline and Loretta Lynn. The highlight was that June felt it a coup when the Dap-Kings, which whom she was touring, led her to a treasure trove of pristine vinyl Lynn albums. She also mentioned a number of current performers. June clearly has a her feet planted in many worlds, both in terms of today’s music and in the past.

There is a tremendous amount of good video available of June. I was struck by how different each of the videos seems to be. The one constant is her tremendous head of hair.

This is from her website. It is of course hagiography, but seems to be reasonably close to the mark:

From the slide guitar shuffle of “You Can’t Be Told” and heavenly harmonies of traditional spiritual “Trials, Troubles, Tribulations,” to the stark, acoustic “Workin’ Woman Blues” and the uncanny darkness of “Twined and Twisted,” June effortlessly shifts between eras and genres. She can be haunting and melancholy, singing of loneliness on “Somebody To Love,” or full of warmth and charm, fondly recalling her home on “Tennessee Time.” At one moment seductive in a sensual come-on, fragile and vulnerable the next in a display of naked honesty, June transports you to another world the moment you hear her voice.

Steve Leggett’s profile at AllMusic does a good job of describing how June–and, by extension, other talented younger acts–progress. An added bonus is a profile shot from her album. Valerie June has a lot of hair.

Above is “You Can’t Be Told” and below is “Pushin’ Against a Stone.”

In addition to USA Today, June’s site, AllMusic and Wikipedia were used for this post.

Credit: Andy Gill’s review of Valerie June’s “In Order of Time” at The Independent.

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