Photo: Robbie Caponetto
Arist: Valerie June
Home Base: Brooklyn, New York (Via Tennessee)
Valerie June Hockett is a woman from another time. With Medusa-like hair and eclectic sartorial leanings, she cuts a decidedly modern figure. But the heart of this Humboldt, Tennessee-born singer who performs "organic moonshine roots music" belongs to an era long past. Valerie was inspired to learn guitar in her early 20s after hearing recordings of self-taught black Southern folk musicians Elizabeth Cotten and Jessie Mae Hemphill. It was tough at first—she could barely clap to a beat, let alone strum. Though it took some time to coax it out, the music flowed forth—as if the songs had been in the ether for generations. Her debut album, Pushin' Against A Stone, sounds both timeworn and fresh, high lonesome Appalachian folk striped with Delta blues. After releasing three EPs and moving to Brooklyn, Valerie recorded Pushin' with The Black Keys' Dan Auerbach. While she has loved seeing those songs transform on tour (led by her voice, a sweetly puckered drawl that seems to crackle into the present through magic and radio wires), she's eager to get back in the studio. "I don't know if I'll get another time to share what I want to share," she says. "I want to do as much as I can now."
Musical Hero: Blues/folk musician Elizabeth Cotten
Her New Fave: British singer/songwriter Jake Bugg