A Touch of Karen Dalton

dalton

Dylan, Dalton and Neil.

I’m not gonna be able to finish Barney Hoskyns’s Small Town Talk, but it’s more about me than the book (well, that Robbie Robertson autobio also undercuts it). I’ve had more than a couple friends die from substance abuse and I never found it a romantic enterprise but the older I get the more horrifying and depressing it becomes. And the story of the Band and brilliant souls like Tim Hardin become too tough to dwell on.

Karen Dalton was the closest the Folk Movement came to unearthing a voice that would shake up Harry Smith’s Anthology of American Folk Music series. It simply came out of her. The book gave me the excuse to listen back to her second (of only two) albums released while she was around  — In My Own Time. [Let’s get this out of the way: It’s So Hard to Tell Who’s Going To Love You the Best is her masterpiece and absolutely the first thing to grab.] Cannot deny it — the attempts to “expand” Dalton’s range like “When a Man Loves a Woman” are dreadful, but when she consumes and digests a song like the mysterious “Katie Cruel,” there’s no other version you want first.

I was glad to read in the Hoskyns that Dalton’s final years were not as grim as reported in the liner notes to In My Own Time. Nevertheless … grim.

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