‘Queen of Soul’ hones in on blues roots

By Nick Erickson, Staff writer

Tennessean singer and songwriter Valerie June has had a rise to fame since her 2013 studio debut, “Pushin’ Against a Stone.” On top of releasing three self-produced albums and playing sold-out festivals worldwide, she has built quite an image. Now, with her follow-up LP, “The Order of Time,” June hones in on her blues roots while garnishing the traditions of Appalachian songwriting.

June is no stranger to experimentation. She dabbles in everything from soul to traditional pop, all while retaining a cohesive sound. While using these genres to map out a skeleton for the album, June’s sultry voice and instrumental talent breathes life into the music.

A soundbite from a church service, leading into June’s airy voice, opens “Long Lonely Road,” as the pounding of a drum loop propels the track forward. The introduction of a piano solo, drenched in reverb, adds to the flow that persists throughout the record. 

The third number, “Shakedown,” kicks into gear with June’s rockabilly twang, but the upbeat handclaps should not deter listeners from the underlying darkness. The cloudiness of this track is as captivating as June’s stand-alone voice as she repeatedly tells listeners to “feel it when you sing it.” With percussion like thunder and a strong hook, this is a powerful number with a resonating effect.

“Man Done Wrong” is stripped-down blues, with an acoustic guitar, June’s voice and some light banjo. June’s Tennessean accent shines on this song, adding to her bluegrass vibe. Slightly more upbeat “Slip Slide On By” ventures into the territory of contemporary alt-pop artists like Shawn Mendes. June pours soul out for listeners as snare, trombone and trumpet give “big-band” vibes. 

The atmospheric “Two-Hearts” is piloted by layers of spacey organs ranging from gospel to fuzzy ‘70s tones. The tracks last 45 seconds melt into a beautifully-simple guitar solo. June’s signature voice and acoustic guitar duo creeps back in as the track fades, providing a sweet resolution.

Closer “Got Soul” is arguably the most energetic number on the whole album. Reintroducing big-band drum influences, piano lines and the wall of organs, June makes it difficult for listeners to stay put through it all. As the bridge takes way, June’s solo timbre and some more handclaps take the forefront without ever losing pace. “Yeah, I’ve got soul,” June repeats as the album concludes.

“The Order of Time” is by far June’s most eclectic work. As June perpetuates her variety roots into listeners’ ears, she proves to be just as talented and ambitious as her music idols before her. Now in her mid-30’s, June has already established herself to be a force to be reckoned with, but “The Order of Time” is her chance to show that she is the new queen of soul.