by Brian Smith
Songs by this Echo Park quartet often brim with a kind of ache that suggests something intoxicating or sad or life-changing is up around the bend, good or bad, and that it can be frightening. There’s ache too in Valley Queen singer Natalie Carol’s voice, which lifts with gentle power and grace over the band’s often languid country-rockish soundscapes. Its sound suggests top-down drives late-night down into Laurel Canyon, if you can imagine what it would’ve been like back in ’68—guys like Gene Clark and Papa John Phillips plucking guitars on Mama Cass’s porch, David Crosby scoring acid off failing screenwriter Wojciech Frykowski, and song goddess Judee Sill maybe strolling about barefoot, just discovering her songwriting legs.
That sound comes together effortlessly on Valley Queen’s recently released “My Man.” The song’s a bitter truth about how scary realities reveal themselves in new loves. Arkansas-born Carol’s tone and phrasing makes lines like “Show me how your lightning strikes/Did it burn your eyes/I want to see the scars” resonate in weird little profound ways; words that’d no doubt be lost in lesser hands. Her melancholic tilt builds to gutsy peaks, and it's perfectly matched by percolating guitars and pianos, which rise up from an “Everyday People”-ish groove to the ending psych payout. It’s beautifully wrought. Listen.
Go see the Valley Queen Oct. 8, at 7:30 p.m. playing Tucson’s 2nd Saturdays, on Scott between Broadway and Congress. It’s free.