Folk Harpy Is Tricked Into Intermittently Amusing Us


Karen Dalton was, depending on whom you ask, the folkie Billie Holiday or Nina Simone, an Okie poseur actually from Oklahoma, a smudged footnote in Dylanalia, or the harpy responsible for a small handful of people wanting to sing like old doors. The newly reissued In My Own Time is the second album of yellowed folk-blues covers Dalton recorded between 1969 and 1971. It’s more coherent and slightly less charming than her first, which Fred Neil and producer Nik Venet supposedly had to “trick” her into recording. (An achievement that likely had a lot to do with her consummate interest in getting high. Where am I and how did I get here at the same time as the Band? she wonders.)

As far as exercising soundbites goes, Dalton does make every song she sings her own. Sometimes, though, she’d be better off keeping them to herself. But I’m grateful for when she sleepwalks through a goofy country-shuffle arrangement of “How Sweet It Is” or takes something less known and makes it as cozy as the early-morning trawl of gentle-times Velvet Underground, another “junkie” troupe with a “crappy” singer.