Singer-musician Valerie June emotes, jokes at Tin Angel

Valerie June , who calls her sound "organic moonshine roots music," has a new release, "Pushin' Against a Stone." SEBASTIEN BOZON
Valerie June , who calls her sound "organic moonshine roots music," has a new release, "Pushin' Against a Stone." SEBASTIEN BOZON
Posted: August 18, 2013

Sometimes a unique voice - a boldly odd and enticing tone - comes along and yanks the most jaded listeners from their bubble of indifference. Think of the first time you heard Billie Holiday, Antony, Nina Simone, or Bob Dylan, voices that were/are captivating beyond the notion of being merely pleasurable.

Count Tennessee-born Valerie June among those vocalists, with a creaking, emotive sound blending Dinah Washington's shushing jazz inflections and Dolly Parton's high nasal whine into an extravagantly funky chatter.

While she has built a cult following for her quietly released albums for a decade-plus, it's only in the last two years that her self-described brand of "organic moonshine roots music" - mixing Appalachian folk, blues and gospel - came to the attention of such tastemakers as Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys, who coproduced her new Pushin' Against a Stone.

Doesn't matter, though, who produced June. From the moment she hit the stage of Tin Angel on Thursday, her tiny but bracing vocals punctuated the air like brushfire.

From the fuzz of her slide-blues electric guitar to her slow, pulsing voice, "Baby, Where You Been So Long?" was more nerve-jangling than sensually provocative. June strapped on a banjo for "Rollin & Tumblin' " and turned the traditional tune, covered by ancient blues gods like Muddy Waters, into something aged yet briskly new with her primal yelp.

With an oversize acoustic guitar, June's high-pitched images of driving through a pouring rain during "All I Want to Do" was haunting in every way possible. When she dropped a cold a cappella intro on "Workin' Woman Blues," ("I ain't fit to be no mother/I ain't fit to be no wife/I been workin' like a man/I been workin' all my life"), June's tone was more chilling than complaining.

With all this, June was funny. Before starting "Shotgun," she lost something and enlisted the crowd to help find it. After much laughter, she summoned the audience to "go to that dark place," an easy task considering the trembling tenor of that moody murder ballad.

When her small band joined in, June's spare songs grew fuller, though not necessarily better, as her vexing vocals slipped and slid through the countryish "Twined & Twisted" and the floppy pop of "The Hour."

Whether alone or with a band, Valerie June's small, character-driven voice was bigger and bolder than a hot sun.

comments powered by Disqus
|
|
|
|
|