on 6 November 2006
Recorded over a six-month period in 1970/71 at Woodstock, In My Own Time was Karen Dalton's only fully planned and realised studio album. It was released on the tiny Just Sunshine label in 1971, and consequently only ever received the most limited attention.
Dalton's first release, It's So Hard To Tell Who's Going To Love You The Best, was recorded spontaneously one night at a Fred Neil session. Harvey Brooks - the bass player at the It's So Hard To Tell session (who also played with Bob Dylan and on Miles Davis's Bitches Brew) - produced In My Own Time and managed to persuade the reticent Dalton to share her enormous talent with the world.
The delivery of the first line of album opener Something On Your Mind makes clear the presence of a singer with a rare gift. Vocally, Billie Holiday is the closest comparison, but there's something more cracked, more grainy and more pained about Dalton's delivery as it emerges out of the Eastern-tinged intro.
The now somewhat hoary When A Man Loves A Woman is turned inside out by Dalton's fractured croon and How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You) receives much the same treatment. Elsewhere, George Jones's Take Me and The Band's In A Station are both transformed well beyond their soul and country roots. It's the traditional blues number, Katie Cruel, with its haunting banjo and violin backdrop, where Dalton sounds most at home, recalling a host of lost Appalachian generations.
Dalton died in 1993, following struggles with homelessness and drugs. Remastered, with liner notes from Nick Cave, Lenny Kaye and Devendra Banhart, In My Own Time is made available on CD for the first time by Light In The Attic. It is, perhaps, the most perfect legacy she could hope to have left.
I took a gamble and got this album on the strength of the rave reviews and favourable comparisons to other acts I like. The album is also recommended by one B.Dylan, a certain N.Cave and others. I have to say I am always wary of artist endorsements since I feel they will often be looking at some quality in the music as it relates to their own, or may be just know the person.
My initial reaction as the first track hit me was WOW the gamble paid off, very different voice and a wonderful delivery, almost cracking with emotion on each note, one of the most amazing performances I've heard in quite some time. Unfortunately I would have to say only a few other tracks match it.
It perhaps isn't made clear elsewhere that there is no self-penned material on the album so track selection is crucial. Her voice doesn't suit all the songs chosen and the comparisons to Billy Holiday, whilst I can see certain similarities, are a little over-done.
This is NOT a slating;I do not regret buying the album as the best songs are well worth the purchase price, just don't expect "a great lost album" or you may be disappointed.
A final word on the packaging, while the music is paramount and such matters count for little if it is lacking, it must be said the CD is beautifully presented, the chunky cardboard sleeve comes with a substantial booklet featuring informative notes and some nice photos.
Following hot on the heels of the recently released CD version of the sublime "It's So Hard To Tell Who's Going To Love You Best" is the second and frustratingly final album that Karen Dalton produced. Originally seeing the light of day in 1971 on the "Just Sunshine "label this has been a much sought after vinyl acquisition for a good many years. Dalton, having recorded her first album on something of a whim, took more time with this album under the tutelage of Harvey Brooks and the results show that, with the music sounding more fully realised, the arrangements more fulsome.
Daltons extraordinary voice , a mixture of burnt molasses and aching vulnerability is often compared to Billie Holiday , so much so that with Daltons folk tinged background she was dubbed Hillbilly Holiday and the resemblance is uncanny .On this album though where Dalton seems preoccupied with love , exalted by its capricious nature and is acknowledging it as such , her voice is a little more cracked and liable to bend to a songs core message , or as is more likely the way she interpreted it.
The sound too, is more fleshed out than on the debut , with a full backing band that incorporates elements of country , jazz , soul , rock and of course folk. There are takes on traditional songs such as the bleak "Katie Cruel" which is given minimal instrumentation and the covers of more well known and to be honest hoary numbers like "When A Man Loves A Woman" and "How Sweet It Is", But sung by Dalton who is accomplished and confident enough to take the song and melodies to places they wouldn't normally go, they emerge as songs gloriously reinterpreted with an intuitive air that our contemporary karaoke generation just couldn't envisage.
Karen Dalton instinctively seems to know when to impel a song forward like she does with The Bands "In A Station " or to slow things down Like on "Take Me" and is this she is aided by the band s exemplary performances and some terrific arrangements.
So another excellent re-issue on CD, but for Karen Dalton there will be no more, with this and "It's So hard To Tell Who's Going To Love You Best" that is all there is. So it's rather apt that the final track on this album is "Are You Leaving For The Country" a superb swoon worthy number and one that seems to be saying a goodbye of sorts.
on 7 May 2008
When I first heard Karen Dalton back in 1999 on her debut album what struck me was how she could take a song and make it something different. 'It hurts me too', well known by Elmore James is taken away from an electrified Blues/old-style R&B workout & made into a 'folk song'. 'Sweet substitute' so enamoured me that I sought out & bought the CD containing the original by Jazz pioneer Jelly Roll Morton. Karen loved songs, and she could do a lot with them, like Glen Gould in the classical sphere, she took music she loved & played it the way she wanted to. Her version of 'In a station' is equal to, but different from, that by The Band. The musicians on here are both complementary, and tasteful, and to able to perform such a well known song as 'When a man loves a woman' and make it sound like you have never heard it before bears testimony to the greatness of Karen Dalton. However, the personal standout for me is 'Same old man', an old folk song known by many different titles. It is simply haunting, and hardly out of my mind for long.
Some artists carry the weight of legend – voice, talent, mercurial – segueing immediately into drugs, heartbreak and destruction. They shone brightly for a while and then imploded – forgotten now – except by the few who were around the flames at the time. Karen Dalton is one of those artists. And this astonishing Light in The Attic Records reissue is determined to rectify that crappy oversight…
US released November 2006 – "In My Own Time" by KAREN DALTON on Light In The Attic Records LITA 022 (Barcode 826853002226) is a straightforward 10-track CD reissue of her second and last vinyl album and plays out as follows (34:35 minutes):
1. Something On Your Mind
2. When A Man Loves A Woman
3. In My Own Dream
4. Katie Cruel
5. How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)
6. In A Station [Side 2]
7. Take Me
8. Same Old Man
9. One Night Of Love
10. Are You Leaving For The Country
Tracks 1 to 10 are her 2nd and last studio album "In My Own Time" - originally released May 1971 on Paramount Records PAS 6008 in the USA and June 1971 in the UK on Paramount SPFL 271 (it didn't chart in either country).
Guest musicians included pianists Richard Bell and John Simon, Steel Player Bill Keith with Amos Garrett and John Hall adding Guitars. The CD is housed in a gatefold card sleeve and having loved the Kris Kristofferson, Rodriguez and Michael Chapman reissues on LITA – the lavish booklet on this beauty is no different. It's a joy to look at featuring contributions from fans like Lenny Kaye, Nick Cave and Devendra Banhart.
The album’s short 10 tracks are entirely cover versions and give full reign to her utterly unique guttural voice and sloppy-as The Rolling Stones interpretations of them. Dalton had a Billie Holiday 'gargling gravel for breakfast' kind of beauty when she sang – like she was about to collapse any second – a sort of Bette Midler drunk at the microphone with laryngitis (you get the audio picture).
It opens with a Dino Valente original (not on his lone 1968 Epic LP) called "Something On Your Mind" – a ballad that aches in the loveliest of ways. And of course you're then that hit with that voice – wow! It's followed by Percy Sledge's "When A Man Loves A Woman" which you would think would work but it’s a tad forced and my least favourite take on here. Better is her cut of Paul Butterfield's "In My Own Dream" (from his 1968 LP of the same name) that takes the original and adds on sweet pedal steel languidness to it (very cool). We enter Americana banjo territory on the gorgeous Traditional of "Katie Cruel". It's the kind of song that raises chills (people have even featured in You Tube for just that reason) and LITA actually issued it as a limited edition 45" in the States. Side 1 ends with an upbeat version of Marvin Gaye's "How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)" - a Holland-Dozier-Holland classic - but it's good rather than being great.
Side 2 kicks off with a winner - "In A Station" - a Richard Manuel song from The Band's brilliant 1968 debut album "Music From Big Pink". It somehow makes the song warmer whilst still retaining that reminiscing-beauty it always had ("...wonder could you ever know me…"). She goes country with George Jones' "Take Me" – a fabulous smoocher – and again with that pedal-steel ache and a gripping vocal. We return to Banjo for "Same Old Man" while Joe Tate's "One Night Of Love" gets a bit of funky guitar and rolling piano. It ends on my all time fave – "Are You Leaving For The Country" by Robert Tucker – a song I've placed on CD-R compilations which have had people regularly ask – who the hell is this!
I love the way 'Light In The Attic' go the full-throated whole hog on their reissues – gorgeous fat booklets – original tapes remastered – and a pride in their release that oozes out of every nook and cranny. The album itself isn’t all genius by any means and five-star ravings are probably a little over the top – but (and this is the big but) – there is genuine magic on here and so much that screams out to be rediscovered (I can count on one hand the number of times I've seen a UK pressing on Paramount Records across 45 years of collecting).
Her only other studio LP was her debut "It's So Hard To Tell Who's Going To Love You The Best" on Capitol Records ST-271 in 1969. Harvey Brooks (featured bassist on Dylan's "Highway 61 Revisited" and Miles Davis' "Bitches Brew") produced the record - which also boasted liner notes by New York Village folk-hero Fred Neil - author of "Dolphins” and Midnight Cowboy's closing theme song "Everybody's Talkin’” sung in the film by Nilsson.
Karen Dalton died in 1993 after years of drug-related problems aged 55 – largely forgotten and massively under-appreciated. Well this superlative LITA reissue does her voice, talent and magic justice at last. Beautifully dishevelled and then some...
PS: A 2009 LITA reissue offers a 4-track bonus CD with alternate takes of Something On Your Mind, In My Own Dream. Katie Cruel and Are You Leaving for The Country
on 5 December 2011
Karen Dalton was one of the more fascinating figures of the US folk scene of the early 1960s. Other reviewers have outlined her brief musical career and ultimately sad life, so I've no need to tell them here.
This CD is a reissue of her second album, from 1971, when her career was already on the wane. It is mostly very different from her first album, and brings together some very tastefully arranged songs, including such soul classics as 'How Sweet It Is' and 'When a Man Loves a Woman', and others by Richard Manuel and Paul Butterfield.
The problem is that her voice is too limited to take on these songs. The musicianship and the arrangements are impeccable, and this is the problem: with a band behind her instead of her acoustic guitar or banjo Dalton sounds reedy and strained; it's a very uneasy mix that just doesn't work. This is the case even on the more sparsely-arranged 'Are You Leaving For the Country?'. The contrast between these numbers and the two traditional songs, 'Katy Cruel' and 'Same Old Man', where she sings over a banjo and not much else, is all too clear.
With another, more suitable vocalist this album would have been excellent. Dalton was not cut out for these sort of songs, and people interested in investigating her work should seek out her first album and the live recording that has recently appeared, Cotton-Eyed Joe, to find what she really could do well.
on 19 June 2013
These songs alone are worth the purchase of vinyl: 1) Something on your mind, 2) Katie Cruel, 3) Same old man. I think if the album was marked everything on the acoustic style of the song (Same old man), this album would be a masterpiece of the early '70s. This vinyl I bought from seller Only Your music. A very serious seller such as Amazon Uk. In witness whereof, Sun Ra
on 16 October 2010
An awful lot gets written about singers, and an awful lot of it is crap. It's understandable really as the attention naturally gravitates towards them in a way that isn't true to the same extent with instrumentalists. Imagine for a moment how Abba's ubiquitous hits would sound to British ears if they'd been sung is Swedish..........
Karen Dalton is a singer who makes a song her own, and she does it with everything on this set. Her phrasing is close enough to unique as to be not worth quibbling over and her reading on "How Sweet It Is", complete with comparatively gushing backing vocals, exemplifies it.
The reading of "In My Own Dream" is shot through with a piano figure not unlike the one which forms the backbone of Miles Davis's "All Blues". The similarity is highly pertinent in the sense that for all of her `folk' tag Dalton knows more than a little about `jazz phrasing'. As ever on this one she's lazy and languorous in that regard, like a woman who's `read' the lyric to the extent that she's empathising with it and not merely putting it to use as a foundation for empty technical display.
This album was originally released in 1971, for all the difference it makes. Karen Dalton's music will always be an antidote to the `insert emotions here' music peddled by the likes of names I'm far too polite to mention, and as such it's timeless.
on 9 July 2009
Karen Dalton, what to do with her? Not a writer, but an interpreter, and it all stands or falls on her unique voice. You'll either love it, or....
Anyway, think smoky, whiskey-drenched, ageless, like something from a toothless 80 year old appalachian wandering a country trail with an empty bottle. The fact she died homeless and an alchoholic so many years after this album is eiriee, because even as a young woman she sounded just, old.
I'd say, with no disrespect, take in small doses. Hints of Billie Holliday, yes. Hints of some dark force of nature, absolutely. Sometimes she seems the aural equivalent of the Swamp Thing. Sometimes she is just uncomfortable. A genius? Not sure. Unique? Absolutely. But commercial, now that's a different matter. "same Old Man" and the opener "Something on yr mind" are the best of this bunch...
Great, great sleeve notes, and she has absolutely fervent supporters.
on 30 April 2011
Karen Dalton had 2 massive plus factors-she was not a singer songwriter and she was beautifully obscure not even managing to join the No Hit Wonder Club
By all accounts she was her own worse enemy which is quite tragic.
Her voice may be an acquired taste but its what she represents that counts and that was to keep roots music alive.
You've got to love the Underdog-without total musical failure there would be no success for so many others