Assigning artists to genres has always been an important music marketing strategy but now it seems even more vital to an artist’s success. Only by targeting your audience can you be heard amongst the constant chatter of the online world. Only by finding your genre will you discover the right people and publications to support you. In some ways this is also the reason why music has become so homogenised. If your sound doesn’t fit into the pop realm then major publications won’t cover you and the average music listener won’t find you. So it is refreshing to hear Valerie June’s The Order of Time, an album which has so many diverse influences and clearly couldn’t care less what genre it doesn’t fit into.
The opening song ‘Long Lonely Road’ introduces us to her unique singing voice -sounding like a cross between Joanna Newsom, Erykah Badu and Loretta Lynn. What this song encapsulates so well is the truth of life – nothing comes easy. Somehow Valerie makes life sound like a lonely road worth walking. Shakedown has all the bluesy shuffle of an artist who wants to enjoy herself and bring her audience along with her. Recently performing the song on Later…with Jools Holland she made quite an impression with her sound and unique style, hey Bob Dylan is a fan as well. The more you listen to this album the more you understand why – not every lyric is entirely articulated but the rootsy feel of the songs make them rise above. In fact Astral Plane suggests that the destination is beyond this world, a place where music and love co-exist. There’s sadness here in some of these songs but it never feels weighed down. Just in Time offers hope, salvation even. A truly beautiful song about how love can restore your soul, if you’re lucky.
But it the real star of this album is the final song ‘Got Soul‘. A rebuke to all those people who want to put this artist in a box or call her sound country or blues or Americana. She celebrates the fact that sweet soul music is as much of an influence on her music as any of the genres she has been previously assigned to. Valerie June is the kind of artist who proves the point that in the end you become who you are, no matter what. To have found such joy in music is all that matters and it is a privilege to be able to sing along.