Awe­some mu­sic from the ar­chives – ‘In My Own Time’ by Karen Dal­ton

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - NEWS - Donal Di­neen

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.

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