Karen Dalton – It’s So Easy To Tell Who’s Going To Love You The Best
It’s easily forgotten that there were singers and musicians centuries before recorded sound existed. The capturing of the magic was the big-bang moment: once it could be saved on to something, it could be sold to someone. Game on.
The opportunity to capitalise on something that created such a sense of wonder in sensitive human ears sent both appreciators and hustlers into rapid action. Musicians were at their mercy. The control of music has largely been in the wrong hands forever.
You could see how repellent the business could be to artists. Karen Dalton was one such. She harboured a rare gift but had no idea how to nurture it, making her ripe for exploitation. She was brittle and brave in equal parts. Her mother was Cherokee and always slept outside their house in Oklahoma. Even less is known about her Irish father, save for the fact that his death in 1969 hit her hard and the husky aching in her voice on this record could well stem from that loss.
She was married twice and had two children while still a teenager. The move to New York was a break for freedom. The folk cognoscenti of the Greenwich Village scene were smitten. Dylan and Fred Neil were acolytes. But Dalton was no moth to the flame. She retreated and tried to keep the music central. Studios, she abhorred.
It was Fred Neil who tricked her into making this debut record. He invited her to play a song of his and begged her to sing some more while pretending the tape wasn’t running. One of the greatest folk blues albums of all time was made unknowingly. It’s an unintentional romantic twist in a sorry tale. The failure of her second record In My Own Time in 1971 precipitated a rapid retreat from the bright lights and a painful demise into the abyss.
Karen Dalton wasn’t meant for the world of the tycoon. Her brush with it at least left us with evidence of her deeply soulful and dreamy way with a song. Despite the circumstance, we are lucky this clandestine magic was captured.