File next to: Rhiannon Giddens, Ali Farka Touré, Shovels & Rope
If with The Order of Time, Valerie June Hockett sought to create a resolutely unclassifiable record, she’s succeeded beyond a doubt. For the Memphis-based singer-songwriter’s fourth full-length, she’s come up with a dozen tunes that will delight the adventurous listener, but likely confuse and disappoint anyone who wants a whole album in merely one (or two, or three) musical styles. While her nasal, Southern-accented voice seems right at home on the steeped-in-Americana “Long Lonely Road,” when she shifts gears to “Love You Once Made,” June is every bit as effective as she evokes memories of Aretha Franklin‘s Muscle Shoals, Alabama recordings. “Shake Down” filters field hollers through modern pop. A vaguely malevolent string arrangement and distorted electric guitar characterizes “If And.” “Astral Plane” is straightforward singer-songwriter pop. The stylistic shifts never let up, yet The Order of Time somehow ends up a cohesive musical statement.