Valerie June Credit: Renata Raksha

Valerie June’s best-known album, 2013’s Dan Auerbach-produced Pushin’ Against a Stone (Sunday Best), is a raw, playful mix of blues and country. Eclectic and ambitious as that effort is, though, it doesn’t capture June’s full range. On the cover of her new fifth album, The Moon and Stars: Prescriptions for Dreamers (Fantasy), June wears a spectacular silver gown, and the music matches the portrait’s dreamy, dazzling sophistication. Produced by Jack Splash (who’s also worked with Alicia Keys and John Legend), the album is dense, lavishly arranged R&B. “Call Me a Fool” feels like some rapturous combination of Etta James and Patsy Cline, while “Fallin’” channels the folk purity of Nick Drake, the guitar pulsing and circling with June’s breathing—it’s the track most like June’s earlier work, but subtle overdubs give it a richer, fuller sound. “Stay” starts with a piano melody, then adds a martial drum, a full string section, and June’s voice in a multitracked chorus. That voice, harmonizing with itself or otherwise, remains a wonder. In her earlier work, June’s nasal burr and laid-back phrasing evokes calluses and dirt roads, but on The Moon and Stars it sounds more like sandpaper drawn gently across velvet—a sound so harsh it’s sensuous, and so smooth it cuts deep.   v