Keep an eye out or… at least an ear open for… Valerie June – who’s not your typical Tennessee “down from the mountain” songwriter and multi-instrumentalist. June’s debut album, “Pushin’ Against A Stone”, is a welcome and much needed refreshing blast of innovative Americana. Powered by a distinctive voice, strong lyrics and just the right blend of country blues, soul and gospel with a touch of Appalachian twang, June calls her brew “organic moonshine roots music”.
“Working Woman’s Blues” is the first cut off Memphis singer Valerie June’s debut album “Pushin’ Against A Stone”. The woman ain’t ready to settle down. This 31 year old songwriter, known for her dazzling vocal delivery and ultra stylish dreadlocks, suddenly became the “buzz” with the music media after a stunning live performance singing harmonies with Eric Church at last April’s Country Music Awards.
June’s childhood happened an hour or so’s drive east of Memphis where she listened to gospel sounds at her local church and r&b and soul via her father who was a music promoter. She started her professional music career in Memphis at age 19 and mastered slide guitar, lap steel, banjo and piano. June recorded a well received EP in 2010 with members of The Old Crow Medicine Show that attracted a sizable following in the UK and France where she does a lot of touring . So much so, that June’s fan base raised over $15,000 on Kickstarter to help her score a “proper” recording contract. That eventually led to a label signing and Black Keys guitarist, Dan Auerbach who co-produced “Pushing Against A Stone” which was released first in the UK earlier this year on the strength of two well received singles. “You Can’t be Told” and “Working Woman’s Blues”.
“Pushin’ Against A Stone” makes several abrupt genre changes along the way, but that’s ok because that’s what makes this recording fresh and keeps the listener on their toes. June’s fondness for that “moonshine” sound comes through loud and clear on the charming but almost Iris Dement-y, “Tennessee Time”. The thing you know, it’s a very melancholy June oooozing total loneliness on the next track, “Somebody to Love”, which has absolutely nothing to do with Grace Slick.
After 12 years of “pushing a stone”, as Valerie June has been quoted, this Memphis singer may have finally made it to the top of the hill with this fine debut. “Pushin’ Against A Stone” is on my short list of favorite albums twenty-thirteen.
Now, how ‘bout a proper West Coast tour, Ms. June? - Eric Berg
Valarie June’s updated website can be found here.