There are albums I cast into the purgatory realm of, “I don’t know what I think of you yet.” Some stay to repeat to themselves, “I did not die, and I did not live.” This album from Valerie June has been sitting there since I first got it. The reason is because Valerie’s voice is quite piercing. It has this type of drawl that drove me nuts when I first heard it. It’s similar to the reaction I had when I first heard Joanna Newsom on “The Milk-Eyed Mender”. Today I threw on Valerie just to see if my ears were able to accept her. Not only did they accept her, I can’t understand why I had a problem with that piercing Tennessee soprano brass of hers. I think her voice is suddenly wonderful.
If you don’t like country and blues, don’t even fucking try with this album, there’s no point. You’ll just upset yourself. I listened to a podcast once from Malcolm Gladwell called, “The King of Tears”. The podcast spoke of two separate people, people who get country music and those who don’t. Here, let me break it down for you in my own way: If you tell people you like country, but you only listen to Johnny Cash’s last few albums, then you just don’t like country. Just admit it. There’s no shame in it. It’s just not for you. I love Johnny Cash, but getting into country after you watched, “Walk the Line” doesn’t make you a country person. That’s like saying you got into history after watching “Gladiator”.
Before I go on, straight up I hate, with a writhing and stinging hate, what I call “country pop”. It’s pandering as fuck and dumb as shit. What is country pop? Format: intro speaks of landscape or some small town setting, next lines talk about a girl in jeans or some dumb shit about riding in trucks or drinking beer, then the chorus is an incredibly tacky and bad line like, “The open road,” or, “Sweet dreams of baked beans” over and over again until you feel like putting a torch lighter to your own taint so you can finally feel something else. Valerie has nothing to do with this.
This album has so many hooks into old-school country. The production is obviously clean and modern, but the instrumentation and song writing is old as shit. This is her follow up to “Pushin’ Against a Stone” released in 2013. She writes the songs and she does a great job. I feel like she could have been a bit more personal in what she had to say. But I love when anyone combines soul and country. A brass section, Rhodes piano, and banjos and guitars? Fuck ya. I’ll listen to this shit all day.