The last time Valerie June released an album, 2017’s ethereal The Order of Time, the singer-songwriter began to toy with some of the loaded expectations of roots purism and country-blues authenticity that had begun to hover around the singer after the success of her 2013 breakthrough, Pushin’ Against A Stone.
June goes even further to carve out her artistry on her own terms on “Stay/Stay Meditation/You And I,” her entrancing three-song suite that serves as the first preview of the singer-songwriter’s upcoming 2021 LP.
June co-produced the medley with Jack Splash, a veteran pop and R&B who was recently enlisted to work with St. Paul & The Broken Bones, another roots music outfit looking to broaden their sonic palette. June’s new suite does just that, including bright piano, orchestral strings, and horns.
At seven and a half minutes, June’s latest begins with “Stay,” which finds June ruminating on romantic regrets over an elegiac Elton John-esque piano melody: “Gambled, through I’d lost it,” she sings in her high lonesome whine, “Having you in my life was a sure bet.”
After a fluttering flute instrumental, June begins “You And I,” perhaps the most stark evidence of a bold new direction June is taking in her latest batch of songs. The song is a moving meditation on romantic relationships turned platonic: “When the love left just a friendship, that’s when we found our greatest gift,” she sings, “Little distance, for perspective/Gentle patience, sit reflective.”
June’s latest is an astoundingly generous moment from the Tennessee singer-songwriter, one that gives reason to believe that her 2021 album may be her most fully-formed yet.