If you want to hear an album that was recorded over 40 years ago that sounds like it was recorded yesterday you could do no better than to listen to Karen Dalton’s “In My Own Time”. Her idiosyncratic style will seem oddly familiar to current audiences (because she has influenced artists who came after) , but, it must have seemed quite alien in the 1960’s and 1970’s. She accompanies herself quite ably on banjo and 12 string guitar. This album was recorded in 1970/71 at Bearsville Studios with some excellent backing by John Simon (The Band, Janis Joplin, Leonard Cohen, Simon & Garfunkel), Richard Bell (Janis Joplin, The Band), Amos Garrett (Stevie Wonder, Emmylou Harris, Bonnie Raitt), Harvey Brooks (Dylan, Miles Davis, John Cale, Donald Fagen), steel guitar virtuoso Bill Keith and drummer Denny Seiwell (Wings). The album is not the least bit dated in either performance or production and provides a most enjoyable listening experience.
Like many of us Karen lead a complicated life. How else do you explain the trajectory from being Bob Dylan’s favorite singer to being homeless in Manhattan? Karen was Native American at a time when America was earnestly trying to sanitize its history and deny the existence of people like herself. She also had led a hard life in Oklahoma, divorced twice by 21, before she came to New York. This life surely informed the delivery of her songs. Like her very talented friend Fred Neil Katie was reluctant to tour and even to record. In the end her problems with drugs and alcohol cut her life short in 1993.
If you like alternative folk with jazz phrasing you will enjoy Karen Dalton.