Though Valerie June has moved on from Memphis, the city was and will always be the place where she cut her teeth as a performer. And her fans here are legion, often left wondering when her next 'hometown' show will be. While June is in the area, playing St. Louis tomorrow night and Nashville on September 12th for Americana Fest, she won't be stopping in the Bluff City. The good news is that fans can enjoy a live performance anyway, released today via Spotify, Apple Music, and GooglePlay.
Most Los Angelenos have a soft spot in their hearts for the KCRW program, “Morning Becomes Eclectic.” Living up to its name, it's full of musical surprises. This past June, appropriately enough, the program hosted Memphis' own June as she ran through eight songs from her latest album, The Order of Time. Her appearance was recorded beautifully by KCRW, and as of today anyone can hear her crack band lay down choice selections from the album with fresh energy.
“To me it's kinda similar to a trance, a meditation of sorts,” June drawls to introduce the song “If And.” And it's in her drawl that so much of the charm lies. Somehow evoking a cross between a New Age Jessie Mae Hemphill and a long gone mountain woman from Appalachia, June's singing is perfectly suited to the simple drones of her compositions. Her voice wouldn't sound out of place on the classic Anthology of American Folk Music. (Perhaps that's why Bob Dylan name checked her as one of his favorite recent artists in an interview this year).
Her singing makes ventures out of the folk genre especially unique, such as the swaying soul of “Slip Slide on By”. Once you're in June's world of countrified caterwauling, the precision of the pitch is irrelevant. The heartfelt delivery carries it, and it's a welcome contrast to the acrobatic melisma that plagues so much contemporary soul.
Midway through the set, there's an interview with June that offers a glimpse into what makes her tick. All in all, it's a charming gift to the fans out there who may not see as much of her as they'd like. Here's a sample of it on YouTube: