Gig Review by Zak Edwards / Gig Photos by Bianca Barrett

Valerie June

Chances are most amongst the crowd – all of whom were eagerly anticipating the appearance of the current musical darling Mr Jake Bugg – had not heard of Valerie June. I have to confess I hadn’t either, but thankfully (and I say thankfully with total sincerity) our site Editor has got her musical ear to the proverbial ground and such it was that I was making my way to the Institute in Birmingham on a cold Tuesday night to see them both!

Valerie June

Hailing from Nashville Tennessee, in America’s Deep South, aside her extremely unique and distinctive voice which we’ll come to later, the first thing that strikes you about Miss June is her appearance. Petit, stunningly beautiful with uber-cool dreads she looks every bit the rock star. Then she starts to sing and BOOM! You know she’s a rock star… It’s just a matter of time…

Valerie June

As soon as she twanged the first chord on her guitar it was obvious she’d stayed true to her roots musically as she delivered her own unique brand of Bluegrass which her website describes as ‘Organic Moonshine Roots Music’. Then she sang and I can honestly say I was blown away. You wouldn’t associate this dreadlocked diva with the unique sound which emanated from within. Think a sassy version of Dolly Parton with a hint of Joni Mitchell and you’re about there.

June’s second song was debut single ‘Workin Woman Blues’ a bluesy builder of a tune combining nice guitarmanship with an up tempo beat – a certain Mr Auerbach (of The Black Keys fame who produced her album) influence perhaps?

Valerie June

“This is my baby” she said introducing her banjo, “I’m gonna play you a little love song on my baby” and then launched into the delightful little ditty ‘Strong’ – a repetitive southern drawl of a song which grew layer every phase. Lovely! A really simple two chord progression, but oh so effective.

Going solo for a couple of songs on an even bigger baby (banjo) Valerie demonstrated the range of her vocal talent with what I’d class as two traditional bluegrass/country tunes, delivered with a depth of feeling not often heard in Birmingham.

Valerie June

Then it was back with the full ensemble and a more sassy feel with the introduction of keys and backing from her band mates.

Last up was ‘You Can’t be Told’ a ‘rifftastic’ number co-written with Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys which rocked our little socks off – a certain hit of the future.

Valerie June

Collaborations already include a blues laden rap ‘Give me Water’ with John Forte for the encapsulating songstress and it’s only a matter of time before she’s playing such venues under her own volition.

Valerie June

And then she was gone and it was time to sit back and enjoy the splendour of Mr Jake Bugg. One of Gig Junkies favourite sons we’ve reviewed him on a number of occasions and he never fails to impress. You can read the review of his recent gig on the same tour here but I have to say he was mightily impressive and seems to have moved up a number of notches since I first saw him a year or so ago. Judging by the reaction the partisan Brummy crowd agreed and he, like Valerie June seems destined for much bigger and better things!

Valerie June

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