Album Review: Valerie June’s The Order of Time

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Author: Aaron Grych
Valerie June is anything but traditional. Her voice is nasally, her style can’t be confined to one genre, and her hair resembles a heavily dreadlocked version of Medusa herself. However, June is able to master these unorthodox elements and combine them with a background of gospel and storytelling to create a sound that is rock solid. With her fifth album, the 35 year old June has condensed a lifetime of experience into an album that cannot be defined, only enjoyed.

As a Memphis native, June is able to take influences from a surfeit of different styles, time periods, and even diasporas. As a whole, the album has a bit of a vintage southern twinge, a perfect companion to a long late night drive down a back road. However, it is anything but one dimensional. The opening tracks “Long Lonesome Road” and “Love You Once Made” both echo essences of classic bluegrass and country and follow a theme of introspection that permeates through the entirety of the project. This down home feel is immediately whipped into a fever on “Shakedown,” where the addition of June’s entire family in the background creates a boot stomping, head bobbing party atmosphere. June also has a clear influence from African musics, as Tuareg guitar styles can be heard in the songs “If And” and “Man Done Wrong,” which she combines with country effects to create a slinking tone that is distinctly southern. In the spirit of encompassing more genres, June incorporates a Motown flair to the songs “Astral Plane,” a beautifully ethereal trance-inducing gem, and the endlessly upbeat and brassy “Got Soul,” both of which could fit just as easily on a 1960s era Van Morrison album.

Currently, June’s The Order of Time in nestled in the slot for MetaCritic’s #1 album of 2017. The album is so intricately orchestrated with such a wide variety of genres and influences that if I were to try to shoehorn it into one specific category, I would fail. In addition, June is a gifted storyteller, weaving vivid imagery, personal philosophies, and raw experience into her lyrical tapestry. The mix of a mastery of many musical styles and her silver tongue makes for an album that is pure gold.

Grade: A