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Karen Dalton

Biography

The elusive Karen Dalton was an underground favorite of Greenwich Village's teeming folk scene during the 1960s. She made only two recordings, and of those, It's So Hard to Tell Who's Gonna Love You the Best is an underappreciated tour de force. But the electric In My Own Time braided folk, rock and soul arguably better than Dylan's first detour into electric folk. Dalton's voice is wizened and husky, but rich in twang -- she sounds like a farm-bred Billie Holiday trying to sing the blues like Fred Neil. She never ventured to write her own material, choosing instead to cover songs by Jelly Roll Morton, Leadbelly, Tim Hardin, Richard Manuel, George Jones and others; but her recordings, although largely unheard in their time (mostly because music critics then demanded original recorded material from folk singers), remain some of the best from the late '60s and early '70s. Freak folk pioneers Devendra Banhart and Joanna Newsom have both admitted to nicking their inflections from Dalton's distinctive vocal style. Even Bob Dylan once remarked, "My favorite singer in the place was Karen Dalton. Karen had a voice like Billie Holiday's and played the guitar like Jimmy Reed."
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