This week on eTown, we dig into our archives to present a show from 2020 featuring musical artists Valerie June and Mick Flannery. Also, Ann Rolfes, Director of Louisiana Bucket Brigade, reveals the ins and outs of petrochemical pollution in her region.
Valerie June Hockett is a Grammy-nominated artist from Tennessee. She’s been hailed by the New York Times as one of America’s “most intriguing, fully formed new talents.” A musician, singer, songwriter, poet, illustrator, actor, certified yoga and mindfulness meditation instructor, and author, she honorably served as a Turnaround artist working with students for the President’s Committee for the Arts and Humanities and continues serving through The Kennedy Center.
She has recorded three critically acclaimed, best-selling solo albums and has also written songs for legendary artists such as Mavis Staples and The Blind Boys of Alabama. Her albums have been praised by numerous publications such as Pitchfork, Rolling Stone, The Washington Post, NPR Music, No Depression, Paste Magazine, Mojo, Uncut and many others. She’s been featured on The Tonight Show, CBS, PBS, Austin City Limits, Later with Jools, and many more.
An Amazon #1 Best Seller in poetry, her first book, Maps for the Modern World, is a collection of lyrical poems and original illustrations about cultivating community, awareness, and harmony with our surroundings as we move fearlessly toward our dreams. She is also the author of the children’s book Somebody to Love: The Story of Valerie June’s Sweet Little Baby Banjolele, published by Jack White’s Third Man Books.
When she’s not touring, she splits her time between Tennessee and New York.
With his warm, textured voice and rootsy songwriting aesthetic, Ireland’s Mick Flannery burst onto the international scene in 2005 with his debut album, Evening Train. The record won praise and showcased Flannery’s sound, which was drawn from American folk, rock, and Irish traditions. He built upon his initial buzz, hitting the Top Ten in Ireland with albums like 2008’s White Lies, 2012’s Red to Blue, and 2016’s I Own You.
Born in 1983, Flannery grew up in Blarney, County Cork, where he was introduced to folk and blues music at a young age by his mother, a singer/songwriter. By his teens he was writing his own songs inspired by an eclectic mix of artists like Bob Dylan, Tom Waits, and Nirvana. After high school, he worked days as a stone mason while further developing his talents by taking a music management and production course at Coláiste Stiofáin Naofa in Cork. Following his time at school, Flannery embarked on a tour of America, a trip that found him spending time in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and Nashville, where he earned grassroots praise for his evocative, literate songs. Returning to Ireland, he issued his debut album, 2005’s Evening Train. Written as part of a project for Flannery’s music production course and initially conceived as a musical about two brothers, Evening Train was released to widespread acclaim and helped land Flannery a contract with EMI.
He followed up with 2008’s White Lies, which showcased an even more introspective sound and debuted at number six in Ireland. The album eventually went platinum and found Flannery further gaining widespread attention after it picked up an RTE Choice Music Prize nomination. In 2012, he issued his third full-length, Red to Blue, which spent three weeks on top of the Irish album chart and spawned the singles “Gone Forever” and “No Way to Live.” Flannery also hit number one with his fourth and fifth albums, 2014’s By the Rule and 2016’s I Own You.
The songwriter’s sixth long-player, the eponymously titled Mick Flannery, arrived in 2019. Produced in Los Angeles with Australia’s Tony Buchen, the album peaked at number one in Ireland. Also that year, he saw Evening Train turned into a stage musical that debuted at the Cork Midsummer Festival. In May 2020, Flannery released the single “Run a Mile” to help raise awareness of domestic abuse. All proceeds from the track went to support the Women’s Aid charity organization. A concert album, Alive: Cork Opera House 2019, arrived that July and documented Flannery’s sold-out performance at the venue.