If Valerie June had been a roots artist in America 80 years ago, and she often sings as if she was, she might have been a principle influence on today’s myriad retro troubadours, hers a stunningly emotive amalgamation of blues, folk, gospel, soul, Appalachian and bluegrass (including irresistible banjo). She exists, however, today, an artist as modern as an iPod Shuffle, a musician for a generation that carries the entire history of recorded music so casually inside its phone.
Like a potent distillation bubbling on a Prohibition-era porch, Valerie June makes self-styled “organic moonshine roots music”, music for the porch parties of today, a party where she strums her guitar, plucks her banjo, opens her mouth and delta-blues-country stridently sashays out, a stunning peal somewhere between Dolly Parton and Billie Holiday.
A self-taught musician, singer and song-writer from small-town Humboldt, Tennessee (population 8,000), she honed her astonishing sound in the vibrant Memphis atmosphere, her spectrum of influences the history of music itself: Elizabeth Cotten, Leadbelly, The Carter Family, Whitney Houston, Van Morrison, Dolly Parton, Roscoe Holcomb, Woody Guthrie, Nico, Junior Kimbrough, Nina Simone, Bob Dylan, The Beatles, Nick Drake, Leonard Cohen, Joni Mitchell, Tracey Chapman, Billie Holiday, The Rolling Stones, Blind Lemon Jefferson, Mississippi John Hurt, Gillian Welch, Townes Van Zandt, Elmore James, Skip James, Blind Willie McTell, Memphis Minnie…
Her brilliant new album Pushin’ Against A Stone, released on our very own Sunday Best imprint, was recorded at The Black Key’s Easy Eye studio in Nashville. Produced by Dan Auerbach (The Black Keys) and Kevin Augunas (Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros, Florence & The Machine) it’s a sonic postcard from the universe, where the atoms of history live.
Rob Da Bank loved Valerie June enough to sign her to his record label which should be all the encouragement you need to check her out at this year’s festival if you haven’t already encountered her mercurial talents.