MAY 30, 2017 by Valerie June
Valerie June handles vowels with uncommon dexterity. In the aughts, when she was selling self-released albums out of her trunk, her shape-shifting vocals distinguished her in the Memphis music scene. June’s voice quavers with the dark, enunciated wisdom of a woman who has lived through and heard it all; in it can be heard frissons of gospel, mountain folk, city blues, and Tennessee roots. Pushin’ Against a Stone, June’s 2013 major-label debut, polished the singer-songwriter’s edges into an eccentric yet conventionally charming soul-country effort, produced by the Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach. Her new album, The Order of Time, endeavors to unsand those ends.
Not to say this project is at all unfinished. Rather, it insists on its rawness. The production emphasizes the audible humanity of a certain catalogue of instruments: acoustic guitar, banjo, hand claps, fiddles, organs. June’s voice is barely tampered with, maintaining some of the errant scratches, drifts, and wails that were smoothed out of the highly aesthetic packaging of Pushin’ Against a Stone. On “If And,” the textural nature of her bluesy drone makes it seem like she’s actually in the room with you, tilting her head to the side, singing about “kids all grown-up” and “parents gone broke.” Read more here.