Awesome music from the archives – ‘In My Own Time’ by Karen Dalton
In My Own Time is the second and last album Karen Dalton ever made. It’s tragic that there aren’t more chapters to this enchanting story but considering her loathing of the recording process it’s a minor miracle that any exist.
Dalton was a restless soul from Oklahoma who arrived in New York in time to light up the late 1960s Greenwich Village folk scene. She was a free spirit who took liberties with the form of every song she tackled. The blues turned a different colour in her hands. She’s one of those rare artists who can change the way we hear music with her voice alone.
Something rings undeniably true about the way she inhabits a song. There’s a whole other dimension to her cover versions. She’s not so much an interpreter of songs as a coloniser of them. She travels deep inside the words, mining for meaning and invariably coming up with gold. Melodies are bent every which way to fit her mood. Rhythm, meter and tone are transformed.
She never sang her own words but the way she expressed herself through others’ music is a joy to behold. Her version of Dino Valente’s Something’s on Your Mind, which opens this record, is an exquisite example. The lyrics exalt love lost and her rendition communicates its transitory nature. The yearning in her voice is palpable. We are left reeling from the raw emotion. She strips everything back and exposes the undeniable truth. She’s a soul singer.
A similar narrative thread runs throughout the record. Dalton straddles the thin line between hope and despair in almost every song. Another supremely moving moment is her poignant rendition of Katie Cruel. There’s a stark loneliness to the minimal banjo accompaniment as her voices soars to within an octave of breaking point. It’s a captivating high-wire act.