Valerie June‘s first album for a proper record label (after three earlier, self-published efforts) is all about her voice. In an era of identikit R&B “divas”, June has the most strikingly individual delivery I’ve heard in ages, a reedy, piercing intonation that cuts straight to the quick.
Significantly, it owes little or nothing to contemporary R&B mores, but instead is grounded as much in bluegrass and Appalachian singing as in Southern soul, gospel and blues. It’s utterly disarming in its directness: when she sings “I’ll be somebody/If you need somebody/To love”, the almost childlike simplicity of the lyric and the plaintive banjo and fiddle arrangement is echoed in the sincerity of a performance entirely bereft of disingenuous slants or ironies.
It’s music that slips between the generic niches favoured by broadcasters; but isn’t that exactly where the most interesting music comes from? — The Independent