Valerie June | Schubas | Folk & Country | Chicago Reader
This is a past event.
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When: Tue., Oct. 22, 6:30 & 9 p.m. 2013
Until earlier this year I knew Tennessee native Valerie June only from a couple of vocal cameos on Me’Shell Ndegeocello’s most recent album, Pour une Ame Souveraine: A Dedication to Nina Simone (Naïve), and from her role in the Wandering, a roots-rock band fronted by Luther Dickinson of the North Mississippi Allstars. So I don’t know how her breakout solo record, this summer’s Pushin’ Against a Stone (Concord), compares to its predecessors—they’re all out of print. I can say, however, that Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys has left his paw prints all over it. He played on the record, coproduced most of it, and cowrote many of the songs, so that his swampy Duke Records blues-and-soul vibe dominates its flavor—but the opening track, “Workin’ Woman Blues,” produced by bassist Peter Sabak in Budapest, has a surprising Afrobeat groove. The varying aesthetic approaches on the album rarely seem to have much to do with June’s own personality, but her magnetism and soul—not to mention her feel for American roots music—help her rise above these forced marriages. Her songs traverse familiar themes: the stark “Shotgun” is her spin on the old trope about loving someone so much you kill them, while “Twined & Twisted” describes an escape from home in search of meaning. “The Hour,” with a groove that sounds hijacked from vintage Bobby “Blue” Bland and irresistible backing vocals, tells the story of a thorny relationship in which chronic mistreatment and dishonesty aren’t enough to break romance’s spell. June’s music conflates old-school soul, old-time folk, and Delta blues, and her powerful voice, slightly sharp-edged but with a rounded enunciation, takes center stage and holds it. I hope she develops a stronger identity in the future, but I’m not complaining about the one she’s revealed so far. —Peter Margasak The 9 PM show is sold out.

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