As summer drifts away in a shimmery breeze, it’s hard to remember what it felt like to be truly cold in the winter months. But listening back to the recordings we made in February with Valerie June we were instantly reminded of the chillness in the air that made the warmth in her performance so especially lovely.
Valerie chose “Happy or Lonesome” to pay tribute to a performer from the past who might just be her namesake. But as she sang her long-distance longing with such a hopeful tone, we had to wonder if she had Memphis on her mind, too.
Valerie is effervescent when she plays a happy song, so buoyant and free that it fills you with a heady happiness to hear her. For her flipside she chose a love song, “Raindance” – maybe to offset the murder ballad she’d done earlier in honor of Valentines Day – but definitely to bring a little light to the dark winter evening.
Where ya headed? We meet like fellow passengers at the end of a nearly abandoned train car in Brooklyn. But the train doesn’t budge, because we’re not there to travel, not really. It’s dark inside, and we light candles, it’s chilly outside so we bundle up. It’s silent at first, without the chugging of the engine and the tripping of the steel wheels over hundreds of miles of track, so we fill the space with music.
She’s a New Yorker now, but Valerie June brought her Memphis along in her reedy, bouyant voice. And as she sings the sweet longing for a long-distance love in “Happy or Lonesome,” we almost expect her hometown to answer. But it’s the Presto that does, in the end, with a satisfying click.
This train’s not leaving the station, but it doesn’t need to. So what if we’re rooted in place, we’ll still get carried away.
Thank you so, so much to Pete’s Candy Store for giving us such a warm Brooklyn welcome, and for mixing our 78 Sours so strong!
The elation at the end of a long day of recording mixed with the sweet burn of a 78 Sour as the bar moved into happy hour and we moved into the bar.
Some of the gathered crowd knew what would happen, some wondered what we were doing. They lingered nearby, craning their necks to get a better look at the mesmerizing Valerie and the strange old machine on the table in front of her.
Valerie was a pro by this time. “Wildwood Flower” was the fourth side she’d sung in one day, the fourth time she’d watched our needle drop, the fourth wild mass of chip she’d displaced with her wild voice. And she kicked off of that momentum, straight into a final song so spirited that it hushed and entranced an entire Brooklyn bar.
Buy it on iTunes.
Thanks again to Pete’s Candy Store in Brooklyn, NY, for letting us in, and inventing our new signature drink.
So as not to sound unbecomingly contrary, or morbid for that matter, let’s just say that the love songs of The 78 Project so far have been torn from the book of hard-living. They have ranged from the practical to the downright bloody, and that fits right in with our gleefully unsentimental folklorist’s view of the prospects of love.
Because we would be spending February 13th with Valerie June, and because her voice sends us into the rapturous state we imagine Chaucer intended when he wrote about Cupid’s arrow, we hoped she would be willing to record a song for our Valentine’s Day greeting to you.
We were sheepish and shy in asking, “Would you…?” She didn’t have even have to think about it. She had the perfect thing. The song sprung from her guitar as her cold, silver slide trailed it’s red scarf across the frets. And the words came from the darkest part of her heart, confirming what we suspected: Valerie is our dream girl. A matchless murder balladress.
It’s a handwritten, handcut Valentine, from Valerie and The 78 Project to you. Unlike flowers and paper, an acetate is forever.