Karen Dalton – 1966
by Ken Jenie
Ever since I stepped in Hi Fidelity on the third floor of Mondo Cafe in Kemang, I’ve set my eyes on a record with its sleeve doning a woman holding a guitar with a cigarette in her mouth. The woman, Karen Dalton, is a legend in the annals of great American folk singers, but her tendency to avoid the spotlight also makes her a mysterious, unknown character A personal favorite singer of mine, I finally chalked up the money to purchase the album titled 1966 and needless to say it was money well spent.
Karen Dalton is known to avoid the spotlight, preferring performing in front of an intimate audience of acquaintances rather than strangers, and this intimacy can really be felt in her albums. In 1966, Delmore (the label that reissued this record) unearthed recordings of her practicing with her then-husband, Richard Tucker, for a gig. Making it even more intimate is that 1966 was recorded in the couple’s home in Colorado (note: Dalton, who is originally from Oklahoma, had lived in New York City before moving to Colorado). In the songs you can hear both the discipline and focus that comes with practicing, and the care-free performance (particularly in Dalton’s voice) in playing this music without a formal audience.
Karen Dalton’s voice, as always, is beautiful. It is rich, charismatic, tortured and weathered – it is a voice that evokes emotions and gives the impression of a long age. The opener, Tim Hardin’s “Reason to Believe” (whose most popular version is, perhaps, by Mr. Rod Stewart), really sums up Dalton very well – it is sweet, reserved without having to hide her vocal abilities, warm and rich even with the minimal instrumentation. Take a listen to the clip above and enjoy her music.