26 Aug POP MATTERS: Pushin’ Against a Stone
“I ain’t fit to be no mother / I ain’t fit to be no wife / I’ve been working like a man y’all / I’ve been working all my life.” Quite a weighty, though supremely genuine and honest, way to initiate an album. On Pushin’ Against a Stone, those lyrics, excerpted from opening track “Workin’ Woman Blues”, establish the tone for the debut effort from singer/songwriter Valerie June. An eclectic mix of folk, country, blues, and soul, June is nothing short of a standout talent, hearkening back to the past yet remaining freshly captivating within the present. Perhaps she doesn’t reinvent the wheel on this Southern sensible affair, but she easily asserts herself as a viable, complete musician.
“Workin’ Woman Blues” showcases June’s raw, distinct vocals, riding over her own guitar accompaniment. Building gradually, the minimalist production grows slightly larger, adding the anchor from bass and drums and, later, trumpet (played by Barabas Lorinc). From start to finish, the “Workin’ Woman Blues” is on autopilot. The follow-up has a lot to live up to, but “Somebody to Love” excels at this tall task. June trades in guitar for ukelele, and gets musical assists from Booker T. Jones (organ and vocals) and Luca Kezdy (violin). The overall timbre is lovely as is the songwriting itself, finding June putting herself out there as the perfect companion: “I’ll be your somebody if you need somebody.” Read more here.