Album Review of "The Order of Time" by Valerie June

 

What's Time Got To Do With It?

Time shapes life in its own immutable way. And spiritual growth, Valerie June tells us, is commensurate with our ability to understand how time works. Time gives us hard work and heartache. But it also gives us opportunities—to speak the right words, to the do the right things, and to strengthen our bonds with the people we love.

Genre: Americana

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Album Review Podcast - Show Notes
The Order of Time by Valerie June

Dive deeper! Learn more about Valerie June, listen to The Order of Time, and read additional reviews of the album.

Listen to The Order of Time


Album Review:
The Order of Time by Valerie June

This is a transcript of Ep. 3 of the What's This Album About? podcast - listen here

Hi everyone! Welcome to What’s This Album About?. I’m Bobby Waller, and this episode is dedicated to Valerie June’s latest album, The Order of Time.

         Yeah, I got soul, yeah, I got soul, yeah I got sweet soul

This is the single “Got Soul.” According to Amazon.com’s popularity rankings, it’s one of the two most popular songs on The Order of Time. And I think it tells us a lot about what this album is about. The Order of Time is an album about the soul. From start to finish, it is a deeply spiritual album.

But its focus is actually a bit sharper than just “the soul.” As its title suggests, The Order of Time is also about time. Time has an order. To one degree or another, it’s in control. It shapes life in its own immutable way. And spiritual growth is commensurate with our ability to understand how time works.

The album begins with a song called “Long Lonely Road,”

       ♪  Pile in the church pew rows
             Gran made the best yeast rolls
             Gospel stories told
             ‘Bout the one way to save your soul

In this song, Valerie June recalls how hard her father used to work, how her grandmother made the best yeast rolls, and how long her spiritual journey so far seems to have taken. Right away, she establishes the passage of time as this album’s primary concern.

       ♪  It’s been a long, been a long, long, been a long, long, long, long lonely road

And on Track 2, “Love You Once Made,” she quickly commits herself to the task of applying her understanding of time to real life.

         You can leave knowing you did all you could…

She sings of a departed lover who wants to believe he did everything right.

         You could have said ten thousand words, done all the things that you should

…but who, in fact, never found the time to say or do the right things. And because he did not make good use of his time, time catches up on him.

         Time’s hands turn to point straight your way
             A memory faded to dust of a love you once made

Time is a plentiful resource, but the onus is on us to make good use of it. The opportunities are there for us to heal and grow and love and to make connections with others, but if we fail to seize those opportunities, time will turn its hands to point to us. Time will make it abundantly clear that our failure to grow is our own fault.

Another song about the role of time in relationships is “If And,” spelled I-F space A-N-D, but pronounced in the South, where Valerie June and I both come from as “If’n.” It begins with the assertion that time sometimes progresses slowly…

       ♪  Some things in life happen too slow

But later in the song, Valerie June asserts that time sometimes progresses too quickly.

       ♪  Kids all grown up. Dang, it happened so fast

Time is mysterious that way. Sometimes it flies. Sometimes it drags. But despite its mysterious nature, despite our inability to fully fathom it, it’s still predictable in a lot of ways.

       ♪  One thing for sure, one thing that’s real
             If’n you ain’t lovin’ your woman, then someone else will

If you don’t take the time to honor your lover, then time will find someone else to do it. This, the songs asserts, is a certainty. Because time governs our relationships like a natural law. And not just our romantic relationships. The song also references our relationships with our parents and our children, asserting in the last verse,

       ♪  One thing for sure, one thing that’s fate
             If’n you don’t show them you love them, it will be too late
             If’n you don’t show them you love them, it will be too late

One of the things I like most about this album is the way it stays rooted in everyday experience. It’s consistently spiritual throughout, but it never gets too ethereal. That’s because Valerie June is steeped in the song forms of popular music like rock and the blues. Her first job as a kid was helping her music-business father with street-level promotion of artists like Prince and Bobby Womack. And so, on the Order Of Time, she steers away from heady diatribes and instead gives us things like breakup songs like “Man Done Wrong,”…

       ♪  Man done wrong and I don’t care
             Man done wrong and I don’t care

and “Slip Slide on By”…

         No question why you just slip slide on, you slip slide on by

as well as more tender love songs like “With You.”

         And if I should fall so deep, may it be with you

In fact, the popular single “Shakedown” seems to be a complete break from the topic of time.

       ♪  Get me on the shakedown breakdown showdown
             that move it make it go around
             that brought it broke it bring it
             that feel it when you sing it

Instead, it seems to be a song a booty-shaking. Because Valerie June, despite having a serious point to make, keeps The Order of Time listenable, accessible, fun, and real at all turns.

And yet it never strays too far from its spiritual center. There’s the single “Astral Plane”…

       ♪  Dancing on the astral plane
             holy water, cleansing rain
             floating through the stratosphere
             blind, but yet you see so clear

which depicts Valerie June a free and joyous individual at peace and at play in the realm of the Spirit.

And then there’s the triumphant finale, “Got Soul,”

         But I got soul, I got sweet soul

…which gives The Order of Time the feeling of a spiritual victory. Time, Valerie June tells us, gives us hard work and heartache. But it also gives us opportunities—to speak the right words, to the do the right things, to dance in the spirit, and to strengthen our bonds with the people we love. Time is the order of our lives. And if we learn to use it wisely, we too can proudly proclaim, “Yes, I got soul.”

       ♪  Yeah, I got soul, yeah, I got soul, yeah I got sweet soul

Thanks for listening to What’s This Album About? If you liked what you heard, please take a moment to comment, like, share, or subscribe. It’ll help us a lot. We’re on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram, and you can email us at WhatsThisAlbumAbout@gmail.com. Until next time, I’m Bobby Waller reminding you to use your time wisely and keep your ears open because

the more you listen, the more you love.

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