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Valerie June Showcases Her Unique Voice and Songs at the Santa Monica Pier


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By Jorge Casuso

August 3, 2017 -- She counts Bob Dylan among her listeners and has won praises from the nation's top music critics.

On Thursday night, Valerie June will showcase the achingly unforgettable voice and smart folksy songs that have made her a rising star during the Twilight Concert Series on the Santa Monica Pier.

A Memphis native, June began recording at the turn of the new century when she was 19, self-releasing three albums before her 2013 breakthrough "Pushin' Against a Stone," co-produced by Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys, began turning heads.

"There has never been a voice quite like Valerie June’s, and it seemed to come out of nowhere," the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette wrote. The New York Times called her one of America's "most intriguing, fully formed new talents."

"The first thing that grabbed me about Valerie June," wrote the New York Times' Chief Pop Music Critic Jon Pareles, "is the way she embraces imperfections. Her voice is full of endearingly human quirks and flaws.
Valerie June album cover

"It wavers, it cracks, it scratches, it goes nasal; it’s unvarnished. And it sounds fully alive -- not larger than life, but utterly confident that its personality will come across."

June's songs, which tap the roots of American music, also won praises, with Pareles calling them both full of "benevolence" and "very savvy in the way they mix the folksy and the philosophical."

Rolling Stone described them as "a blend of spacey hippie soul, blues and folk with June's pinched, modern-Appalachian voice at the center."

But the ultimate compliment came from Bob Dylan, who cited June when asked about his favorite recent music.

June called it a "jaw on the floor moment."

Opening for June is Irma Thomas, who "remains one of America's most distinctive and classic singers, a treasure from the golden age of soul music," concert promoters said.

Music critic Don McLeese praised Thomas' 2006 Grammy-winning album, "After the Rain."

"Most singers who have been recording as long as Thomas resort to tricks, mannerisms, and show-off displays, but she remains the anti-diva, a stylist of exquisite understatement whose every note rings true and hits home," McLeese wrote.

Now in its 33rd year, the Thursday night summer series -- billed as "Southern California's largest free concert series" -- features world music, pop, rock, blues, funk and a classic rock band.

DJs from media partner KCRW will present each concert in the series, which is co-produced by RH&S Concerts, a partnership between Spaceland Presents and Rum & Humble.


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