Karen Dalton “In My Own Time”
The first time you hear her voice. Listen to track 1 on this record (see below) and you’ll know what I mean. Karen’s got “whoa” factor that few singers can pull off and has been lauded by the likes of Bobby Dylan, Freddy Neil, the Holy Modal Rounders, and must have inspired Joanna Newsom. Yeh, the first time you hear that voice, it can transfix you.
We tend to favor garage rock and country rock records with a high ratio of original material, and tribute numbers seem to rarely ever surpass originals, but this sophomore LP comprised solely of cover songs will dash any 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; Karen phrases in a way that pwns every tune.
Songs by Dino Valenti, Richard Manuel, Paul Butterfield mix with traditionals and pop classics recorded at legendary Bearsville Studios, featuring a couple players from the Bobby Charles sessions. The sound is akin to that of The Band on some takes, but riding solely on a 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.
The CD digipak 2006 reissue, with excellent liners, is the best way to go, containing an additional disc of alternate takes that are truly different versions, proving the strength of the material and versatility of the band. No idea what’s up with the backwards cut of Are You Leaving… but it sure would explain why people sometimes refer to this music as psychedelic folk. 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.
“Something On Your Mind”