UtopiaFest, Sat. November 3, 8pm
Last year, Valerie June's The Order of Time swirled a palpably cosmic power. Psychedelic touches bloomed in the Memphis singer-songwriter's rootsy twang, which defined her breakout fourth LP Pushin' Against a Stone in 2013. The more expansive sound came as a surprising change, showcasing an artist in evolution herself.
"I still haven't done what I've wanted to do all along, because what I want to do keeps changing and expanding," she admits. "As soon as you think you've caught up to the finish line, the finish line has moved that much further from you. As an artist, I'm always inspired and wanting more. I don't know what it would feel like to have a record out and think, 'Yes, this is exactly what I pictured in my mind!'
"It's never what I pictured, but always something that I'm proud of."
Whatever the embellishments, June's music resounds with deeply personal feeling, a core of pain and joy rising into a universal embrace. That power fuels her on stage as well, the singer's soulful drawl pulling at a well of emotion. Consider her stunning, tearful performance at last year's Luck Reunion during SXSW as exhibit A.
"I remember that show. I sang 'Uncloudy Day,'" she reflects. "My father had passed away just about five months before that, and I didn't know I was going to sing 'Uncloudy Day' before I got onstage. It wasn't on the set list. I just started singing it. The spirit moved me to sing it, so I started to sing it.
"And when I got to that line of, 'Where my friends have gone,' and thought of my dad going and being in that land far away, I just lost it. I'm emotional, and this music touches me just like it touches anybody else, and that was what the spirit did. I can't get up there and put on a show. I've got to give y'all who I am."