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Album Review: Karen Dalton's '1966'

February 20, 2012 |  5:38 pm


This post has been updated. See below for details.

When folk singer Karen Dalton died in 1993 at age 55, she left behind two classic but unknown records made in the late 1960s and early ’70s and featuring session players who’d done time with Miles Davis, Bob Dylan and Janis Joplin, among others. The best of them, “In My Own Time,” came out in 1971 and then virtually vanished until it was reissued in 2006.

Dalton rose up in the Greenwich Village folk scene alongside Dylan (who praised her in his autobiography) playing banjo and 12-string guitar, and had a gravelly voice (and a prickly demeanor) that channeled Billie Holiday and Ma Rainey. But she struggled with substance abuse her entire life, and virtually vanished for the two decades before her death. Since then, a few private recordings have surfaced from the early 1960s, but none capture her essence like “1966.”

A practice tape recorded in her rural Colorado cabin with accompanist-husband Richard Tucker, this stunning, intimate document is as deep as it is raw, and reveals a singer whose magnetic voice, while unrefined, is filled with heart-wrenching emotion. Dalton absolutely owns “Reason to Believe,” the classic Tim Hardin song about desperate love, as she does Holiday’s “God Bless the Child” and Fred Neil’s “A Little Bit of Rain.” Highly recommended.

Karen Dalton


(Delmore Recording Society)

Four stars (out of four)


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--Randall Roberts

Updated: The original version of this post misidentified Richard Tucker's relationship with Karen Dalton. He was her husband, not, as orginally written, her boyfriend.