Friday Five: Valerie June

Juli Thanki | August 9th, 2013

Valerie June’s utterly irresistible music fits in the sweet spot of a Dolly Parton-Elizabeth Cotten-Mississippi John Hurt-Erykah Badu Venn diagram. Her new album, Pushin’ Against the Stone–produced by Dan Auerbach (The Black Keys), Peter Sabak, and Kevin Augunas, and featuring guest artists like Booker T. Jones, and recorded in Nashville, Van Nuys, and Hungary–combines June’s myriad musical influences into a fantastic collection of music. We recently caught up with the singer-songwriter while she was on tour in Europe and asked her about the five songs that inspired her while she was working on Pushin’ Against a Stone. She gladly obliged, and even posed a challenge to E145 readers.

5. Karen Dalton – “Katie Cruel”

A friend sent me Karen Dalton’s music because he said I’d probably love her voice.  True enough, her haunting space between each note on this tune continues to inspire me.  The story is really great too.

 

4. Ali Farka Touré – “Ali’s Here”

I honestly don’t know what happened when I got in the room with producer Peter Sabak and the Hungarian musicians, but it was otherworldly and magical from the start.  I really feel they brought a world music sound to the “Workin’ Woman Blues.”  After listening to it with them, it really reminded me of Ali Farka Touré or Fela Kuti.  Totally roots music!

 

3. E.C. & Orna Ball – “Jenny Jenkins”

Dan and I decided to cover “Trials, Troubles, Tribulations” after a night of listening to records.  He had made us a steak dinner.  We just hung out in his living room listening to records.  I knew he and I were drawing from the same well musically, but when he started pulling out records and we both knew the lyrics to rare tunes word for word, I felt like we could definitely take that bond into “Easy Eye” and do some major damage.

 

2. Jessie Mae Hemphill – “Eagle Bird”

“You Can’t Be Told” would not be nearly as fierce without the lyrics talking about the eagle bird.  It could have been a robin or a cardinal, but there’s something that sang “eagle bird” to me when we were writing this tune.  I have to believe it was a trace of Jessie Mae’s spirit whispering in my ear.

 

1. Mississippi John Hurt – “Avalon Blues”

“Tennessee Time” takes a line from my first love, Mississippi John Hurt.  See if you can find the shared line and write me a note on Facebook with the answer!

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