If you aren’t privy to Valerie June, she is an extremely well-rounded musician who seamlessly blends folksy charm with down-to-earth blues. The Tennessee native is a poet at heart, and has been releasing music since 2006 with a Grammy nomination under her belt. Under Cover (clever play on words) is a short and sweet collection of eight covers comprised of some of her favorite classic songs. But they aren’t mere copies! Her peachy tone and melody variations add her own unique flair.
Opening with “Pink Moon” by Nick Drake, her rendition is delicate and cozy, similar to the original. However, her delivery is quite slurred, which is captivating in its own right. She prioritizes the piano (instead of acoustic guitar), and adds a generous layer of reverb. Effectively turning the song from a gathering around the bonfire type of tune, into a laying underneath the stars and appreciating the bizarre beauty of life type of track.
Reminiscent of Mazzy Star’s breathy tone, June does “Fade Into You” justice. The original’s essence is haunting and almost mournful in its dissonant instrumental, whereas June’s version comes across light and breezy. Her intonation is hazy and powerful, aiding the slightly ambiguous lyrics. She is adept at breathing new life into these songs, such as “Look At Miss Ohio.” Transforming Gillian Welch’s twangy, dobro-lead ditty into a rhythmic and buttery melody. Her interpretation “Don’t It Make You Want To Go Home” by Joe South also sounds decidedly contemporary!
A personal favorite is “Godspeed” by Frank Ocean. Here, her slurred and luscious inflection is at its best. From modest vocal fry to runs so gentle they could break. I’m particularly fond of the way she sings the chorus “I’m wishing you godspeed, glory.” It’s very enigmatic! The instrumentation is simplified, giving it a classy feel, along with the whispered ad libs for added mysticism.
John Lennon’s “Imagine” has had its fair share of covers, from Shakira, to Glee, to Howard Stern. It’s an acclaimed classic with empathetic lyrics lending itself to be molded and refined by nearly anyone. June approaches it with elegance, emphasizing the beauty in its simplicity.
Her vocals are distinctly upbeat, more than any other track, on the joyous “Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here With You” by Bob Dylan. Matching his playful disposition with a raspy texture and streamlined instrumentation. By contrast, the album ends with a soothing, but somewhat somber cover of “Into My Arms” by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds.
Put together, these songs seem to embody the idea that appreciating the small things in life (your hometown, loved ones, etc.) will create a ripple effect to true satisfaction and comfort, as well as the importance of wishing nothing but good fortune on others. Overall, this collection is a decent representation of Valerie June’s character as an artist.