Valerie June is the cool type of weird. With her styled-up dreadlocks and unique voice, her cool weirdness comes from completely trusting herself and not conforming to the mainstream.
June comes from gospel roots and her voice has a raw, primitive country element mixed with soul. Her sound can be compared to such artists as Leon Bridges, Anderson East, and even Sturgill Simpson. The phrase she created to describe her hybrid music style is “organic moonshine roots music,” which depicts her various influences.
June grew up in Tennessee and started her music career in Memphis. She had lived in Brooklyn for seven years before moving to Memphis. Her debut album, Pushin’ Against a Stone, was released in 2014 and was produced by Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys. June’s new album, The Order of Time was released on March 10, and embodies the same type of sound as Pushin’ Against a Stone, but covers vastly different topics.
The songs on the album were collected over the course of several years. June likes to talk about her songs as individual beings, gifts that are received versus being created. In an interview with WBUR-FM, June said, “Leonard Cohen was saying that some songs take years to come into full circle; it happens that way sometimes for me.”
The first single from the new album, “Astral Plane,” leads the way into a new universe of music. Although the sound is more pop than folk, the song explores some philosophical themes with lyrics like, “Follow the signs, slowly, but steady / Don’t rush / The day will come when you are ready / Just trust.”
“Long Lonely Road” has the style of a slowed down country song. June sings of the hard work that goes into “making it” in life. She sings, “Folks thought we had it made / ‘cause we always kept a face / Meanwhile there’s bills to pay / and the stack growing every day.”
The song “Shakedown” speeds things up and has an upbeat, bluesy sound. It’s the type of song that you just want to clap to with lyrics like, “That shakedown, breakdown, showdown / That move it make it go around / That brought it, broke it, bring it / Feel it when you sing it.”
“With You” is a delicate, soft song where June’s raw vocals really shine. It’s a beautiful song about falling in love with lyrics like, “And if I should fall so deep and true / And if I should fall so deep / May it be with you.” The song is accompanied by acoustic guitar and violin, making the song a nice contrast from the rest of the songs in the album, which have more going on instrumentally. Closing out the album is the song “Got Soul,” which has a groovy, Motown mood with fiddles, horns, and organs coming into the spotlight. In the feel-good tune, June repeats, “Yeah I got soul / Yeah I got sweet soul,” and indeed she does in this song, and in each of the 11 other tracks in the album.
If you haven’t checked out Valerie June’s music, I definitely suggest doing so. Whether you are a fan of country, folk, or the blues, you are likely to enjoy her music. What I love most about June is that she blends the genres of folk, classic pop, soul, and bluegrass in a way that is crafted seamlessly. Her style is unlike most artists today and you’re guaranteed to toe-tap or nod your head at least once or twice if you listen to The Order of Time.