Since catching her live earlier in the year we’ve been chomping at some metaphorical bit waiting for the release of Valerie June’s latest record.
As expected, this album doesn’t disappoint. For someone so young the sound is something almost other worldly and old. You can hear faint hints and some very unsubtle nods to almost every pre-50s genre in most tracks. There’s big band swing brass, jazz, blues and even some Pete Seeger style banjo for the true folk devotees. I’ve seen Valerie June compared to a ‘dreadlocked Gillian Welch’ which is a great injustice.
‘Workin’ Woman Blues’ is a real tour de force; the kind of song able to grace any Nina Simone album. It’s not dissimilar in it’s stylings or content to the likes of ‘I Want A Little Sugar In My Bowl’ and with a global recession forming another dustbowl around us, it’s fitting for an artist such as June to go back and draw inspiration and look for hope in that 20s/30s sound. Do a little listening or reading around this album and you’ll learn a lot from the old R’n’B groove of the title track to Dan Auerbach from The Black Keys’ heavy influence on ‘You Can’t Be Told’.
A few tracks rely on a little less swagger, bass and brass and these are the true standout moments. ‘Tennessee Time’ is an out and out country ballad while the highest praise is saved for ‘Somebody To Love’. It’s mainly vocals and banjo, simple, effective, emotional. It’s one of the best tracks we’ve heard this year.