Engaging, prolific, charismatic, compelling, captivating, beautiful, funny, unique, distinctive, charming, understated, humble, soulful…I mean Soul. Full!
I’m having trouble choosing the one or two words which best describes Valerie June, and her music. Except the word soulful – the 2nd one where I break it apart so it reads like her soul is full – but then, perhaps I am just describing how my soul felt after watching Valerie June at Rockwood Music Hall on Sunday night.
All these words could do her justice and would give you an accurate representation of her, but they wouldn’t completely describe her, or her music.
I was introduced to Valerie June, earlier in the year, from a conversation with a good friend who is fluent in the music industry. He had caught her show at SxSW in Austin earlier this year and had told me how captivated he was. Being a music ‘go to’ person for me, (his ipod takes precedence over mine) he is always introducing me to someone I hadn’t heard of before but there was something in the way he said her name that made me take note. I felt compelled to do my research.
And I found this:
I know! That’s how I felt.
So then I booked tickets to see her with The Wandering at Joe’s pub earlier in the year and heard this:
(Yes, that’s Luther Dickinson closest to the screen and yes, he’s playing 3 strings fashioned from a coffee can. This is not Valerie singing but you have to hear Sharde’s voice – incredible.)
and then Valerie’s solo
Again. I know! But it was a mere taste and, while I knew Valerie June could share a stage I had an inkling that, on her own, she would totally own one. On Sunday night, that she did.
When you first encounter Valerie it’s not hard to feel slightly intimidated. She’s got that Amazonian height and Giacometti like body, all long and lean and lithe with a heavy crown of dreadlocks, like fat snakes, coiled endlessly atop her head and slithered across her shoulders. In a word, Medusa comes to mind; If Medusa was really sweet, smiled a lot and her fierceness was in the way she holds a note, not in her desire to castrate.
There doesn’t seem to be anything angry, or intimidating, about Valerie June (but then, I reckon that southern charm could whip you around pretty quickly and she’s got a head full of fat dreadlocks that could take you down in seconds.)
Her music is described as organic moonshine roots music “hers is a twilight voice, a liquid silk from the heart of Tennessee” as the bio on her website describes. All of it true but, and despite being a lover of words, trying to put music into words is sometimes not enough. Whether you can accurately describe Valerie, or her music, it seems that you’ll come up with a similar description of both.
There are few artists, who I watch live, who can literally step into a song and make no separation between themselves and the music. I’ve watched many great shows where I have felt entertained, and impressed, or where the artist seems to be ‘presenting’, or gifting their music to an audience – separating themselves from what they’ve created…”Here’s a song for you” but in Valerie’s music, and her presence, you become part of something all-encompassing, in the most uplifting, beautiful way.
Valerie June rocks out a note! That girl pulls something from the depths of the earth, greets it with a smile and then coats it with her own distinct sound. She can hold a note and stretch it so it sounds so metallic and penetrating it almost sounds like the chord of the banjo she plays. It’s really just beautiful. Could that be a description enough? nope, still doesn’t feel right.
I had invited my friend Erin to the show and on our ride home, both speechless after the show, we put her CD into the car player (after we had bought ALL her CD’s) wound down our window, the summer’s night air whipping through our hair, and barely spoke (except to request a 2nd round of a song) the entire time.
Maybe that sums it up.
Here is a link to her website and videos of the Sunday night show follow.
(as I was combing through the webs looking for info I came across this site dedicated to dreadlocks. Her locks were being profiled. But the best thing about this article is the comment about the woman who called to find out where her Valerie June CD was…I think it gives a better insight as to who she is).