Karen Dalton: In My Own Time

By Chris Pacifico

Karen Dalton was largely overlooked in the ’60s Greenwich Village folk scene but has gone on to be a quiet influence on several generations of pickers. With her skills on the banjo and 12-string guitar – a stunning fusion of blues and jazz – and her supple, flinty warble, Dalton was just as majestic as her better known contemporaries like Janis Joplin, Laura Nyro, and Joni Mitchell. Bob Dylan once said “My favorite singer in the place was Karen Dalton. Karen had a voice like Billie Holiday’s and played the guitar like Jimmy Reed.” Even Nick Cave has gone on record to proclaim, “She is my favorite female blues singer.”

The newly reissued In My Own Time was Dalton’s second album from 1971 and contains her own take on soul standard “When a Man Loves a Woman” and a sluggish, bebop version Paul Butterfield’s “In My Own Dream.” Her distinctive guitar style fueled by bottom-string rhythmic dawdles could adapt to any style, be it the more bluegrass toned “Katie Cruel” or the outlaw country and Chicago blues hodgepodge of her cover Motown favorite “How Sweet it Is (To Be Loved By You).” Even though her first album was cut when she was barely 30 years old, her voice was mature way beyond her years most especially with “Same Old Man,” where the forlorn yearning in her voice sums up why Devendra Banhart declared, “Without a doubt, she is my favorite singer.”

Dalton was always apprehensive in recording studios so In My Own Time was her final album before she passed away in 1993. After a single listen any folk music aficionado will pick up on Dalton’s vagabond lifestyle, drifting around beautifully on this long forgotten masterpiece.

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