A Tennessee Waltz in London

Dingwall’s couldn’t be more happily named. It is seedy and dark. A little dank too since it sits atop Camden Lock so you can practically smell the canal. Which makes it the perfect venue for @TheValerieJune last night.

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Camden Lock at Night

You are up close at Dingwall’s. The stage is almost level with the audience and nothing separates the performers. You could reach out and touch them. You would not want to with Valerie June. Not that she’s aloof just that you respect her space. She steps onto the stage in a red skirt, with a red handbag just a size below a tote. She is a tiny woman from the intersection of two states and three small towns but she has huge presence. And she claims Tennessee. From the massed old school dreadlocks that seem even heavier than her own body weight to the elaborate scarf wrapping around the finger that holds her guitar’s neck and worries the strings she knows she is making an impression. She just doesn’t have to shout about it.

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Lost Behind Locks

But shout she does sometimes about love and loneliness and loss. And she keens and whispers and frets too in a voice that mixes registers. About why you sometimes have to kill a man and then yourself. Blues staples that every woman in the audience understands or pretends to. The band is great, the drummer an energetic New York lady and her back up singer could be Lena Dunham. A horn, keyboardist and two other guitars gives her sound depth and moves us away from melancholy ‘fore too long. After a roared for encore during which she does an upbeat tune I loved called “Shakedown’ she ends her set as she started it alone with her banjo. As she covers blues king Muddy Waters she confides to us that she really loves dead people’s music the most. And I totally get that but she makes a good case for being a fan of the living.

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