Graham Reid | | 1 min read
The new wave of folk artists have belately come to Karen Dalton, who palled around in Greenwich Village in the early Sixties with the likes of the young Bob Dylan (who was hugely impressed with her singing and guitar playing) and Fred Neil.
It's said that she is the subject of Robbie Robertson-Richard Manuel song Katie's Been Gone on the Basement Tapes with Dylan. She was also admired by Tim Hardin, Bert Jansch and others.
She died in '93 after a long struggle with drug addiction and only released two albums in her lifetime, which have become much sought after and poured over by finger-picking folkies. The second In My Own Time was reissued in 2006 (and is reviewed here).
She sang a lot of traditional songs and dipped into the catalogues of Hardin (with whom she performed for a while in a trio with Richard Tucker, who became her partner) and Neil, but also reached to the blues.
Recently an album has been released of songs casually recorded in a cabin she was sharing with Tucker when they were in Colorado in 1966. The cabin had no address or running water, but Dalton was much more comfortable there than she was in front of an audience. The ambience of performance spaces put her off, not the people.
The lo-fi album, entitled 1966, includes a remake of her moderately well known Cotton Eyed Joe, a version of Hardin's famous Reason to Believe and also Katie Cruel (which Bert Jansch covered on his album The Black Swan).
But there are also songs by Ma Rainey and this, Billie Holiday's famous God Bless the Child.
In Chronicles, Dylan compared her voice to that of Holiday's.
There is certainly some of that ache which is borne of a pain so deep it cannot be known to most of us.
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