Valerie June: The Moon and the Stars review – psychedelic Memphis soul

The Tennessee singer-songwriter’s bittersweet country soul with an astral bent fares best when it’s kept simple

Tennessee-born Valerie June leads meditation sessions and makes her own soap; Bob Dylan has taken note of her wide-ranging roots music and versatile voice. Her previous recorded outings have struggled to consistently capture June’s charmed take on country-folk blues – and her tilt towards the astral plane.

Most here will know June from 2013’s Pushin’ Against a Stone, which foregrounded Black Key Dan Auerbach’s production work. The Moon and Stars adds multitracked vocals, reverb and a gently psychedelic take on Memphis soul to all of the above. It’s a three-dimensional listen, often old-timey or borderline new age, littered with meditations, proverbs and birdsong.

The addition of a rolling band of session musicians makes other tracks more conventionally forthcoming, matching the glam iridescence of June’s cover image. An overbaked single, Stay, piles on strange production choices, but further in, songs such as Call Me a Fool fare much better, foregrounding June’s distinctive vocal or, on Two Roads, harness the record’s constituent elements – organ, drums and her bittersweet country-soul tones – more elegantly. As much as you want to applaud this idiosyncratic soul outing, the straightforwardly acoustic, demo-grade Fallin’ is probably the record’s most lapel-grabbing moment.

Watch the video for Fallin’ by Valerie June.


Kitty Empire

The GuardianTramp

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