I flipped upon Valerie June’s 2014 set of Austin City Limits in a shabby hotel room off highway 101. The episode rose goosebumps on par with, Grammy winner, Esperanza Spalding’s power-house performance years before. I was hooked. A dominating female force who crooned out “Workin’ Woman Blues” on her debut Pushin’ Against a Stone, June stirs up another concoction of Southern sweetness with The Order of Time.
June labeled her sound as organic moonshine roots music. Trenched in Tennessee Appalachia tradition it’s rather a specific flavor, but serves the kind of hooch I’ll swill down. Her work boasts rich audio imagery: back-country roads, baked yeast rolls, star shine and cleansing rain. Warbling vocals drone down to a shaky hum and pierce our chest cavities, yet we continue to suffer along because we have been there and, like her, weren’t ready to let go- but did.
Appearing as a modern day Medusa, June is masked with the gaze of a temptress and piles her spiraling dreadlocks high atop her head. However, she does not turn hearts to stone. Instead she transforms listeners into mushy versions of themselves who wallow in her twangy pitches that edge closer to sobs.
Where does time go and what does it take with it? Innocence, romantic youth and gravestones of loved ones regrettably fade away into the record’s reoccurring theme: dust. These are the gripes of the Tennessee native.
Raised as the eldest of five siblings, June sings of the hardships in her upbringing, “Pops made his work in dust/ But his hard-working hands fed us/ Sun up ‘til sun sank down/ His body worked to the ground”. Childhood permeates us the same way summer rays, solstice after solstice, etch lines on our faces. We age, but have we grown that far away from the eight-year-old we were?
Valerie June found a comfortable space on this album to reflect upon her life’s catalog of music, lovers, family and Gospel. She drenches us with her pain and we soak it up while curling into the fetal position. Her heart wrenching melodies, paired with electric guitar riffs, torture us so good (Que Bill Murray in Little Shop of Horrors) “THANK YOU!”
The Order of Time is a beautiful Earthy piece that will leave you wanting to pack your rucksack, stick out your thumb and hitch into the Tennessee foothills.