Pushin' Against a Stone
Years of performing and releasing solo albums on her own have earned Valerie June a sturdy fanbase, but it was a crucial move to Brooklyn—where she made the acquaintance of The Black Keys' Dan Auerbach—that has brought her music to the attention of people who can break a potential star nationwide. June captures a roots-music movement that's been updated in the new millennium. Here, the blues-jazz-pop genres flow like never before, and the nightclub pop of "The Hour" (where "I Put a Spell on You" shakes off its creepy horror for something sweet and seductive) is just one more weapon at her disposal. "Workin' Woman Blues" is a modern anthem with an easeful shuffle, where the freedom to walk the streets as your own person makes more sense than trying to lead thousands into song. "Twined & Twisted" evokes memories of when folk singers delivered the news. Modern beats create an answer to Philly Soul on "Wanna Be on Your Mind." The lone cover here—of Estil C. Ball's "Trials, Troubles, Tribulations"—puts June and Auerbach at the same mike to harmonize like vintage country. "Shotgun" howls and moans with a lone acoustic slide guitar for vintage blues.