“The Order of Time”
THE GRADE A
BOTTOM LINE Delivering a soulful, mature Americana masterpiece.
Valerie June shocked music fans when she burst on the scene in 2013 with her powerful major-label debut “Pushin’ Against a Stone.”
Her delivery was so unexpectedly raw and potent that more attention went to how she said things rather than what she was saying. On her masterful follow-up “The Order of Time” (Concord), June strengthens her songwriting to create a package as stunning as her voice.
“Slip Slide on By” sits at the intersection of country, blues and R&B, with June’s laid-back delivery stoking a slow burn, aided by a warm horn-and-organ backdrop. She doesn’t need to raise her voice to raise the song’s emotional stakes; it’s built into the structure. The longer they “just slip slide on by,” the more the relationship becomes untenable.
On the wrenching “Long Lonely Road,” she rolls out how keeping the truth hidden creates painful separation. “Folks thought we had it made ’cause we always kept a face,” she sings over a simple, dreamy backdrop. “Meanwhile there’s bills to pay and the stack growing every day.” To hammer home that feeling, June cleverly repeats the chorus so often it takes on the sound of tires on the freeway, creating a sense of victory simply by moving forward.
Finding purpose in repetitive struggle is one of June’s favorite themes dating back to “Workin’ Woman Blues” and “Pushin’ Against a Stone,” though it is more developed here. Luckily, June applies her growing talents to more joyful moments as well. The gorgeous “Got Soul” unspools over a groove worthy of a Motown rhythm section, as fiddles and horns and organs take their turns in the spotlight. She declares, “Yeah I got soul, yeah I got sweet soul” as an unquestionable victory that she’s willing to share, bringing “The Order of Time” to a glorious close.
June has found her niche and she is ready to make the most of it.