One of my favorite albums of 2013 was Valerie June’s “Pushin’ Against A Stone”. Produced by Kevin Agunas and Dan Auerbach (the Black Keys), it was album that caught my ear with its seamless mix of roots, blues and folk sung by a voice that seemed to have decades of earnest life lessons behind it.
Valerie June’s voice is unique. It’s a voice that you can’t confuse with another singer’s voice. She is … for lack of a better comparison … what Erykah Badu is to neo-soul/hip hop music. A voice so raw and sincere, singing music so traditional yet new, I found it hard not to fall in love with it upon my first listen, and have been telling my friends since that hers is a voice that will likely stand the test of time.
It was a week after I purchased tickets to see Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings when I found out that Valerie June was added to open the show … and I was ecstatic. At first, it seemed like an unlikely pairing, but upon retrospect, because both artists’ music styles are essentially modern-day approaches to “classic” styles of music, I figured the promoters knew what they were doing assuming that their audiences would be more knowledgeable and appreciative because of the historical slant to the music.
Valerie’s set was short but sweet. Clocking in at just over 30 minutes, it was charming mix of acoustic and band-backed versions of her songs, mostly coming from her latest release. After it was all said and done, I found myself wanting more. Not only that, but I decided then and there that if she would ever perform in a more intimate venue like the Bootleg Theatre, I would be the first person in line.
As an aside, while waiting in line to get into the venue, I noticed a woman with flowing dreadlocks and large sunglasses walk by me. It was Valerie June and I quickly asked the couple behind me to hold my spot as I caught up to her and asked her to autograph the LP I had packed in m bag. I assured her that I wouldn’t draw any more attention, and as we walked around the corner (she was heading to the artist entrance to get ready for her set), I pulled out the LP and professed my adoration of her “Pushin’ Against A Stone”. Her gorgeous smile made my day.
I also asked about her father, mentioning that my own father had heart surgery several weeks ago as well. Our conversation was brief, but in those few minutes I felt like I connected with her on a human level, which only made me appreciate her performance that much more that evening.
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