Born in 1937 in Bonham, Texas, Karen Dalton was a woman with Irish-Cherokee ancestry (and beautiful eyes) who would soon take to the stage as an American folk / country / blues singer, guitarist and banjo player, commonly associated with Bob Dylan (often seen backing her up on harmonica), Fred Neil, and other early American folk greats from the Greenwich Village scene.
Dalton was raised in Oklahoma, but after two divorces before the age of 21, she left in search of a place she’d feel more welcome, that place being Greenwich Village, NYC.
The Greenwich Village scene was essentially a revival of the 1930s and 40s folk scene that began in New York City, with acts like Bob Dylan, Woody Guthrie, Fred Neil and Dalton herself coming together to perform. The music that came out of “the village” was often associated with left-wing politics, smokin’ and drinkin’.
But it also touched on a more sentimental side of songwriting, with characters like Karen Dalton providing us with some beautiful albums based around love, relationships, and broken hearts (she’d’ve been educated on that subject plenty already).
Though there was never a point where every household in America would own her records, she’s now received some very well-deserved respect from many artists, including Devendra Banhart and Nick Cave - not to mention the countless people sitting at home probably feeling all of the colourful emotions that she’s able to wean out of you whilst listening to her first studio album after a tough day.
“It’s So Hard To Tell Who’s Going To Love You” is the name. In itself, even the title is enough to get you going on a little Dalton-inspired emotional journey, but I’m hoping that you’ll take your listening experience a little further today and have a crack at the whole album, if you’ve got the time.
The production on this record is like no other folk album I have ever heard come out of 1969. Dalton was tricked by her engineer into believing that the tape wasn’t rolling, after having tried to record the albums twice before. She managed to bash that whole gem out in one take! And somehow maintain her calm, thoughtful composure and her intricate, beautiful playing. And somehow, it sounds modern - it sounds crisp and clear and warm all at the same time.
This album sticks out to me (in a good way) because it feels like such a warm hug. Surrounded by scenes of political revolt and hope, in a time when America was on a turning point, her songs, even out of the historical context, bring a level of warmth and love which I’ve never experienced before with a musician.
I hope that after reading my account of it, you’ll be convinced to have a listen. The album features a few covers from artists such as Fred Neil, Hardin, Morton, Floyd and Booker T. Jones, my favourite track being the first, “Little Bit of Rain”.
You can also listen back to this playlist that we made for you a few weeks ago, here. Hope you enjoyed this short little blog post!