You Should Know: Blues-Folk Singer Valerie June

Valerie June_LITK

Listening to a recent episode of NPR’s All Songs Considered, music critic Ann Powers raved about singer-songwriter Valerie June. The Tennessee born artist calls her sound “Organic Moonshine Roots Music” — an “emotive amalgamation of folk, blues, gospel, soul, Appalachian and bluegrass (including [an] irresistible banjo”.

June is a self-taught musician and has self-released three albums, her debut as a signed artist, Pushin’ Against a Stone, released in the UK and Europe in May via Sunday Best Recordings; and hits U.S. soil through Concord Music Group on August 13. It includes several songs co-written with Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys, who co-produced it with Kevin Augunas (Florence & The Machine). It seems that the album was titled to commemorate her life story.

June says: “I feel I’ve spent my life pushing against a stone. And the jobs I’ve had have been fitting for getting a true feel for how the traditional artists I loved came home after a hard day to sit on the porch and play tunes until bedtime.”

Born in Jackson, Tennessee (childhood home of poet Gil Scott-Heron), but raised in Humboldt, Tennessee, June is also featured in two songs on Meshell Ndegeocello’s Nina Simone tribute album, Pour Une Ame Souveraine (2012, Naive) — “Be My Husband” and “Black Is The Color of My True Love’s Hair”…

Below watch a video interview by with Valerie speaking about her music, expectations people have of her as an artist (with locs) and much more. Also, peep the video for her newest single “You Can’t Be Told”.

Pushin’ Against a Stone releases August 13.


Valerie June’s discography:

Valerie June and The Tennessee Express [2010]

Mountain of Rose Quartz [2008]

The Way of the Weeping Willow [2006]


Upcoming U.S. tour dates:

August 10 – Cedar Cultural Center – Minneapolis, MN
August 14 – City Winery – New York, NY
August 15 – Tin Angel – Philadelphia, PA
August 17 – Chenango Blues Festival – Norwich, NY
August 18 – IOTA Club & Café – Arlington, VA

LIVE REVIEW: Grace Potter & the Nocturnals, House of Blues (Houston, TX) – 11/11/12

Grace Potter on stage at HOB’s in Houston, TX, on Sunday, Nov. 11, 2012. (photo/ND McCray)

Opening with the title track from her latest album, The Lion The Beast The Beat, Vermont singer-songwriter Grace Potter showcased her rock-star style along with band mates the Nocturnals at House of Blues on Sunday night.

Undeniably a rock and roll outfit, GPN is also steeped in soul, blues, gospel and country music. Touring heavily in support of their newest project, released in June, the crew opened for country music superstars Tim McGraw and Kenny Chesney in August at Reliant Stadium for their Brothers of the Sun Tour.

Potter told CultureMap Houston last week: “That whole tour was a highlight for me this summer — especially when I got to sit in with Kenny during his show and watch how he controls the energy of 50-some-odd-thousand people. It’s a pretty inspiring thing to see.”

Grace duets with the star on his track “You and Tequila,” a 2011 crossover hit that exposed the group to a much wider audience.

Grace Potter at House of Blues. (photo/ND McCray)

With a light show that rivaled many big-name major-label artists, Potter showcased that she learned from (and can hang with) the best of them. Divvying up sentimental songs like “Stars” and the theatrical “Turntable” (from The Lion The Beast The Beat) with their catchiest tracks from previous albums like “Money,” “Low Road,” “Stop The Bus,” Medicine,“ and of course, “Paris (Oh La La),” the band also included cover versions of Otis Redding and Elton John tunes.

Their set list was compiled via fan-requests on Twitter, thus, making every show a new and different experience. But I, as well as the people around me, could feel the passion in Potter’s voice during Redding’s “Pain In My Heart,” where her powerhouse vocals and organ skills shined through.

For Elton John’s sing-a-long classic “Rocket Man,” country-blues singer RayLand Baxter, who opened for the group, joined in for a rousing rendition. As for other tracks performed (think: “Nothing But The Water II,” “Sweet Hands,” “Apologies,” “2:22,” “That Phone,” as well as an amazing cover by Heart (“Crazy On You”).

Potter says this about a live show: “People come to a rock concert to get lost in the moment and to lose themselves. [And] the best way to do it is to dance, shake off your inhibitions, just really let go and sing at the top of your lungs, whether you know the words or not. That to me is a true visceral rock-and-roll experience.”

And what an experience it was.

The Lion The Beast The Beat is available everywhere now.

My Top Music Releases for April, May & June; shortlist of good stuff

Parisian beatmaker Onra’s latest EP “Deep In The Night”


With tons of new projects forthcoming and lots of dope music in my ear right now, I just realized I haven’t posted my favorite “new music” list since the beginning of April. For those who might of missed ’em, here’s JanuaryFebruary and March –but the list is a short roundup highlighting my top LPs, EPs, singles, and mixtapes released throughout the month. Whether for deep lyrical content or strong production aspects, there were plenty who got play on my iPod.

Nonetheless, here’s a shortlist of my favorite releases that dropped from April 1 to June 30 of this year. In order of the most recent.



▪    Atlantic Connection, LOVE ARCHITECT (electro/soul/downtempo)

*   Emeli Sandé, OUR VERSION OF EVENTS (pop/soul) #BritishSoul

▪    Esthero, “Never Gonna Let You Go” (electro/pop) [single]

▪    HouseShoes, LET IT GO (underground hip-hop)

▪    Jarrard Anthony, READY TO LIVE (R&B/soul) #uplifting

▪    Lakecia Benjamin, RETOX (soulful/funky/jazzy)

▪    Liquideep, Alone [EP] (soulful house)

▪    Lissat & Voltaxx vs. Marc Fisher feat. Vanessa Ekpenyong, “Heat of the Night (Deep Disco remix)” (house) [single]

*   Onra, Deep in the Night [EP] (electro/hip-hop) #dopeness

▪    Rocco Careri & Arturo Macchiavelli feat. Vanee, “Rock With You” [Michael Jackson cover] (soulful house) [single]

▪    Tamia, “Beautiful Surprise” (R&B/soul) [single] | video provided by Singersroom



*   B.o.B, STRANGE CLOUDS (pop/hip-hop) | 15 tracks/10 features #StillLikey

*   Columbia Nights, Dawn | Dusk EP (neo soul) #sosmooth

*   Karmin, HELLO (pop) #ultrapop #guiltypopleasure

▪    Mary Mary, GO GET IT (Music from the TV series) (contemporary gospel)

*   Miguel Migs feat. Meshell Ndegeocello “Tonight” (R&B/deep house) [single]

▪    Monophonics, IN YOUR BRAIN (soulful/heavyfunk/60’s rock)

*   Rebecca Ferguson, HEAVEN [U.S. RELEASE] (pop) #BritishSoul

*   Scissor Sisters, MAGIC HOUR (electro-pop-dance)

*   Tank, THIS IS HOW I FEEL (R&B) #warning #pantieswilldrop

*   The Hood Internet, MIXTAPE V.6 (hip-hop/electro) #crazymashups #FREEdownload



*   Alabama Shakes, BOYS & GIRLS (rock/blues/soul) #lovelovelove

▪    Bassnectar, VAVA BOOM (dubstep)

▪    Blockhead, INTERLUDES AFTER MIDNIGHT (trip-hop) #instrumentals

▪    Bonnie Raitt, SLIPSTREAM (blues/country/rock)

*   Jamiroquai, ROCK DUST LIGHT STAR [U.S. Release] (pop/rock/dance) #nearly two years after its European release. Can we at least get a U.S. tour? #justsayin

▪    Photek, DJ-KICKS (drum n bass/downtempo/deep house)

▪    SWV, I MISSED US (Soul/R&B) | Sisters With Voices are back!

▪    The Black Seeds, DUST AND DIRT (pop/rock/reggae)

▪    Yuna, YUNA (indie pop/rock/folk)


Bonus track: Matisyahu “Sunshine” [re-worked, pop version of 2010 single]

Houston-area blues-rock band Runaway Sun releases new album

Photos/ND McCray

Indie blues-rock band Runaway Sun is currently promoting their latest LP Let’s Run. The Houston-area quartet brought their blend of whiskey blues, rock and country to Cactus Music on Saturday (Jun. 9), a record store that’s huge on supporting local, regional and national acts.

With two previous projects – 2008’s self-titled EP and 2009’s The Bridge, the group which includes front man Andrew Karnavas, lead guitarist Daniel de Luna, drummer Marshall West, and bass player Matthew Buehrer a.k.a Zero have been touring across the south in support of their music.

Karnavas along with de Luna took a moment on Saturday afternoon to chat with me about the group’s progression and touring. Karnavas said, “For touring, we’ve been focusing on the South. Houston’s a great home base; we go along the Gulf Coast and then we go all the way up to Birmingham; that’s where we did our last tour. And we just kinda make these loops around the South; it works out great.”

Setlist at Cactus included “Bad Bad Man“, “Bright Idea” and “Sweetheart”. Runaway Sun will once again play the arts and culture event White Linen Night in the Heights on August 4.