Karen Dalton (from the album In My Own Time (50th Anniversary Edition) available on Light in the Attic Records) (by Chris Wheatley)
One of the unsung (no pun intended) lights of the 1960s Greenwich Village folk scene, Karen Dalton released only two studio albums in her short lifetime, passing away at the early age of 55. Karen Dalton was a singer, guitarist, and banjo player with an extraordinary Blues-soaked voice. Modern luminaries such as the wonderful Joanna Newsom and Devendra Banhart have latterly championed Dalton's music, and it's fantastic to see this special 50th anniversary release of Karen Dalton's In My Own Time hit the shelves via Light in the Attic Records.
With this edition we get the original album plus three alternate takes and six live recordings, four of which are taken from Karen Dalton's performances at the 1971 Montreux Golden Rose Pop Festival. The singer rarely sang her own compositions, and In My Own Time is no exception, consisting as it does of a mix of traditional songs and a variety of covers.
The set begins in captivating fashion with Dalton's interpretation of “Something On Your Mind”, a track originally penned by Dino Valenti (of Quicksilver Messenger Service). It's a fine, flowing take, with Dalton's band providing a lush, gently rocking background for the singer's unmistakable tone. For those who have yet to experience Karen Dalton – she delivers her vocals in a highly affecting, fragile-yet-strong voice, which it seems might break apart at any moment from sheer emotion.
A word on that backing group – Richard Bell (who worked extensively with Janis Joplin) provides piano while Bob Dylan band alumnus Harvey Brooks contributes bass. Add banjo virtuoso Bill Keith, Paul McCartney/Wings drummer Denny Seiwell, Electric Flag violinist Bobby Notkoff, and guitarist's guitarist Amos Garrett (cited by Led Zeppelin's Jimmy Page, among others) and you have one hell of an outfit. Putting great players together doesn't always work, but here you can expect nothing but the best.
On the wonderful Soul standard, “When A Man Loves A Woman”, Karen Dalton's world-weary, earnestness makes for a perfect fit. Once again, the band provide first class backing, finding a territory somewhere between the folk-rock of The Band, the sophisticated pop of the The Beatles, and the slick Chicago Blues style. Horns, strings, drums, bass, and piano slip and slide in glorious fashion.
“How Sweet It Is” (written by the crack Motown team of Lamont, Dozier, Holland) skips by in a beautiful, Jazzy, shuffle. Dalton's voice here is as light, stylish, and piercing as any Miles Davis horn solo. Equally enjoyable are the instrumental passages, which glide by, cool and hot, providing plenty of foot-tapping fun.
The Band's own “In A Station” is an absolute delight, with a curiously psychedelic-sounding edge. The traditional “Same Old Man” mixes Bluegrass Folk with an ominous undercurrent to lasting effect. “Are You Leaving for the Country” makes for a lovely finale, a wistful, swaying number full of summer promise and summer pathos.
The alternate takes are interesting, if not vital. The live performances are fantastic to hear, even if the sound quality isn't quite up to scratch. Really, though, even the standard set alone would be worth the price. This is an absolutely vital album from Karen Dalton, one of the great forgotten talents.
For more information and purchase options, please visit the Light in the Attic Records website