Valerie June: Pushin’ Against a Stone
As a journalist when NPR music critic Ann Powers vouches for an artist, you tend to listen.
Valerie June is a Memphis-based singer/songwriter that showcases an unusual brand of blues, folk, soul and gospel that has the Internet buzzing. Having appeared last year on Meshell Ndegeocello’s tribute album, Pour une Ame Souveraine: A Dedication to Nina Simone (on the cover “Be My Husband”), and having performed two sets at this year’s SXSW music festival in March, June previously self-released three albums prior to her Concord Music Group debut, Pushin’ Against a Stone.
The album, produced by Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys and Kevin Augunas (Florence + the Machine and Edward Sharpe), is a raw and honest intro to a singer with potential mass appeal, but in a very non-traditional package. A song like “Workin’ Woman Blues” is rather in-your-face: “I ain’t fit to be no mother/I ain’t fit to be no wife yet/I been working like a man ya’ll/Been working all my life.”
Pushin’ Against a Stone carries that same energy throughout with tracks like the tender “Somebody to Love,” the front porch blues of “Tennessee Time” to the soulful “Wanna Be On My Mind.”
June, a self-taught musician (guitar, banjo and ukulele) grew up in Jackson, Tennessee with a gospel music family. However, it was in Memphis, during her late teens, where she developed her talent for crafting emotive songs about love, loss and heartbreak. Now a resident of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, the talented singer is on the European leg of her national tour, with a handful of U.S. dates in September and October.