At least producer and Black Keys singer Dan Auerbach didn't make that mistake. He cowrote and fine-tuned June's first proper label release, last year's Pushin' Against a Stone. Her emerald Tennessee twang marries blues to bluegrass, soul to country in what's been aptly termed "organic moonshine roots music." The album succeeds mostly everywhere, but it peaks with "Workin' Woman Blues," "On My Way" and the title-track "Pushin' Against a Stone." With these songs, three self-released albums and a cache of rock and soul instruments, June continues to win over crowds at music festivals and at the Academy of Country Music awards. Give her a page, Oxford American.
The journey has been much different for 57-year-old soul singer and headliner Sharon Jones. In May 2013, Jones and her band, the Dap-Kings, readied the release of their sixth album, Give the People What They Want. But she was diagnosed with cancer of the bile duct, and later, pancreatic cancer. Only two months earlier, her mother had passed away from brain cancer. After chemotherapy, Jones has returned to normal touring life, supporting a new album that showcases a reborn lead singer. Deep into Give the People, Jones eerily foreshadows her illness with the song, "People Don't Get What They Deserve." What a pleasure it will be to see her, in all of her robustness, sing it on stage, defying last year's awful news. —Eric Tullis