Rhapsody Radar: Valerie June
The notable thing about Valerie June is her sharp, twanging voice. It's a take-it-or-leave-it thing. When the Memphis singer-songwriter exploded into view last year -- three years after a fortuitous performance of her "The No Draws Blues" on MTV's $5 Cover series -- with several 12-inch singles and a major cameo on Meshell Ndegeocello's Pour une âme souveraine: A dedication to Nina Simone, it was proof that she could fully incarnate the old-time bluegrass country and blues songs she loves. And when her Pushin' Against a Stone debut wowed us this summer, it evolved from a gotta-get-used-to-it voice to a crackling, indelible marvel akin to hearing an old 78 shellac. Never mind that she wrote nearly all the songs on the album, save for a few cowrites with Black Keys singer Dan Auerbach and a faithful cover of Estil C. Ball's Christian testimonial "Trials, Troubles, Tribulations." That voice brings cohesion to her stylistic shifts, from the Memphis groove of "Wanna Be On Your Mind" to the stutter-step beat of "Working Woman Blues," and conjures a mood that lingers long after she's finished.