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The new album from Valerie June, Pushin’ Against a Stone, definitely showcases her southern music influences. With a mixture of blues, folk, soul and country there is no way that this album can be defined as one genre of music.
The album opens with the track “Workin’ Woman Blues” where the first two minutes of the song is a guitar solo playing a fast melody that June plays herself. Her vocals come in very strong, almost piercing as she sings lines such as, “Ain’t no food in the ‘fridgerator/ I go to work and I be back later.” The song sets the overall tone of a woman not ready for marriage, but ready for a relationship. The vibe of the song pretty much sums up the overall content of the album which happens to be revolving around relationships. The album begins to give off a lighter feel with tracks such as “The Hour” and “Wanna Be on Your Mind”. The track “Somebody to Love” features June playing the banjo. The song gives very sweet and honest performance of a woman who is looking for someone to love and wants to be that for someone else.
Valerie did not want to just be a singer, she wanted to be able to contribute to her songs in more ways than one. So she learned to play the guitar, banjo, and lap steel guitar which are all on featured on her new album. Most of the songs feature her guitar and banjo, which give these songs more of a folk and blues vibe. The only song on the album that could possibly be considered for mainstream air play is the title track “Pushin’ Against a Stone”. The song features June’s airy yet raspy vocals along with an incredible electric guitar solo at the end of the track. Which wouldn’t be surprising if it was featured in a scene of a movie.
Even though this is June’s debut album, she is not new to recording. June has released music independently that she made in a friends farmhouse back in Memphis, Tennessee when she first started out. She was then invited to open for a group named Old Crow Medicine when they appeared at Rhodes College in Memphis. From then she was invited to Nashville to record some music with the group, which led her to EP Valerie June and the Tennessee Express.
Even though the different genres of music have not left her repertoire this album seems to be simpler than her previous recordings in regards to her lyrics and instrument choices. On many of the songs June sings along with her guitar and nothing else. On others such as “On My Way” she softens her voice to sing along with a ukulele. June worked with famed guitarist Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys and record producer Kevin Augunas and featured background vocals from famed multi-instrumentalist\ vocalist Booker T. Jones. This album gives the listener a little bit of everything, so it is worth taking a listen to and you won’t be disappointed.