For decades, the legend of the late folksinger Karen Dalton rested on the two studio albums she released between 1969 and 1971. Dalton was all but forgotten by the time she passed away in 1993, her music career long behind her, but posthumous interest in her work dovetailed nicely with the archival spelunking that resulted in Delmore Recordings' release of previously unheard Dalton tapes. Following up on their release of a 1962 Dalton recording, the label offered up the appropriately titled 1966. This home recording captures Dalton and her then-husband Richard Tucker playing together in the cabin in rural Colorado where they sought refuge from the Greenwich Village scene, sans running water and an official address (Dalton was very literally off the map). Despite the lo-fi nature of the source tape, which was made in an ad hoc manner by a local friend, the sparse setting -- just acoustic guitar and banjo -- gives Dalton's distinctive voice plenty of room to do its thing. The song list is probably typical of what she was performing live at the time -- in fact, she and Tucker are said to have been rehearsing for a gig during this recording. As on her studio albums, she tackles some traditional folk tunes ("Cotton Eyed Joe," "Mole in the Ground") as well as songs by her friend and fellow folkie recluse Fred Neil ("Other Side of This Life," "Little Bit of Rain") and the work of her pal and fellow drug victim Tim Hardin ("Don't Make Promises," "While You're on Your Way," "Shiloh Town"). Her version of "God Bless the Child" makes it clear why she's often regarded as the Billie Holiday of the folk world; not only did Dalton share Lady Day's lived-in tone, world-weary delivery, and troubled, foreshortened life, she had a way to take songs from almost any source and make them sound as if they'd never existed before her haunted pipes brought them into being.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by James Allen