Karen Dalton :: In My Own Time

The first time you hear her voice, you’ll know what I mean. Karen’s is a voice with “whoa” factor. She has been lauded by the likes of Bob Dylan, Fred Neil, the Holy Modal Rounders, and surely must have inspired (Joanna Newsom). Yeah, the first time you hear that voice, it can transfix you.

Cover songs are hit or miss, only some manage to surpass the original, but this sophomore LP comprised solely of covers will dash those preconceptions. Karen didn’t write songs, she interpreted really good ones. Her voice is described elsewhere in a million similar words and comparisons (“to describe it would take a poet” -Fred Neil), but all I’ll say about it, she’s got soul. It’s almost like how Miles used to say it’s not the notes you play, it’s the notes you don’t; she phrases in a way that owns every tune.

Songs by Dino Valenti, Richard Manuel, Paul Butterfield mix with traditionals and pop classics recorded at the legendary (Bearsville Studios), even featuring a couple players from the Bobby Charles sessions. The sound is akin to that of The Band on some takes, but stripped to just clawhammer banjo on others. It’s something special though to close your eyes with this record and let her take you. Hard to get all the way through to “Are You Leaving For The Country” without feeling something. This one’s a mover.

Light in the Attic’s digipak reissue from 2006 is the best way to hear this. The package includes excellent liners and an additional disc of alternate takes that are truly different versions, proving the strength of the material and versatility of the band. There’s a strange backwards cut of “Leaving for the Country” that seems out of place, but it sure would explain why this might get the occasional psych-folk tag. Her only other album, 1969’s It’s So Hard To Tell Who’s Going To Love You The Best will be essential for fans, but the above record is essential for everybody. words/ b. mcgrath

MP3: Karen Dalton :: Something On Your Mind
MP3: Karen Dalton :: Are You Leaving For The Country?

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5 thoughts on “Karen Dalton :: In My Own Time

  1. Discovered her ’69 record by way of an AD post here months ago (maybe a year?), and she immediately became a personal favorite. Wondered why I had never noticed her before.

    Also relevant, there was a Karen Dalton element in newcomer Lissie (posted a couple of weeks ago) that I thought was recognizable somewhat, as well–along with Stevie Nix, Bonnie Raitt, et al. mentioned.

  2. I would say that “It’s So Hard to Tell Who’s Going to Love You the Best” is just as essential, it just has a more stripped-down, folky vibe. Some argue that it is the superior album but I think that depends on your preferences regarding the productions (In My Own Time being the slicker, lusher of the two).

    It’s the posthumous, non-studio, “Cotton Eyed Joe” that is certainly for hard-core fans.

  3. Karen Dalton, Judee Sill. Two incredibly powerful artists who never got their due. Far heavier than Joni Mitchell, Laura Nyro et. al.

  4. I was trying to figure out where I had heard “Leaving for the Country” before and so i did a little bit of googlin’ and I figured out that Aussie group Drones did a cover of it. Good stuff.

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