Album Review: Valerie June – The Moon and Stars: Prescriptions For Dreamers

“For this album I wanted to see how we could bring some modern elements into that band-in-the-room approach I’ve taken with my records in the past,” says Valerie June, of her third album The Moon and Stars: Prescriptions For Dreamers.

Oh no. When modern soul singers want to “bring some modern elements” to their sound at around this stage in their career, most of them fall into the trap of trying to ‘reinvent themselves’. Inevitably what happens is they panic and think that people no longer want to listen to heart-felt soul and rhythm and blues and instead think listeners want something new and excited. This inexorably leads to terrible electronica.

Valerie June has not fallen into that trap. Not at all. Despite its grandiose name, what Valerie June has done on The Moon and Stars, is kept it simple and gone in completely the opposite direction – boring down into the roots of her genre, mining for riches. And she has found them. In abundance.

It is at this point that we should give an example of those riches but, really, we’ll just point you to the track-listing. Aside from interludes ‘Stay Meditation’ and ‘African Proverb’, every song is its own type of gem. Whether it is the subtly classy pearl of ‘You and I’, or the laconic emerald of ‘Call Me a Fool’, or the bombastic glistening diamond of ‘Smile’, this is a collection to be proud of.

All of that is fine, but you cannot buy class. And in music, that means you have to have a unique selling point. Fortunately for June, she has one. As catchy, as intriguing, as intimate or as tender as these songs are – The Moon and Stars is elevated to its astral heights by June’s vocals. Not hiding behind over complicated production but front and centre, projecting. June’s voice on this record is, as always, as spell-binding as it is unique.

And so, to extend on the idiom from ‘African Proverb’; ‘‘only a fool tests the depths of the water with both feet…’ unless, of course, the water is Valerie June’s new album The Moon and Stars. In which case, dive right in.

James Beck

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