Karen Dalton: In My Own Time


Karen Dalton: In My Own Time
(Paramount, 1971)

The story of Karen Dalton is not paved with gold or glitter. But her music continues to amaze and inspire new generations of music lovers.

Dalton didn’t write much of her own music – acting more as an interpreter than a songwriter – and she only cut two albums during her lifetime: 1969’s It’s So Hard to Tell Who’s Going to Love You the Best and 1971’s In My Own Time. Raised in Oklahoma and Kansas, Dalton entered the Greenwich Village folk circuit in the early 1960s, where she befriended the likes of Fred Neil, Tim Hardin and Bob Dylan. In My Own Time was recorded in Bearsville Studios, Woodstock with a great group of musicians and a wonderful set of songs. But it failed commercially, and Dalton drifted away and faded into obscurity, living a rough life, partly on the streets, fueled by her drinking and drugs habits. She passed away due to AIDS related illness in 1993 at only 55 years old.

Often dubbed «a folk singer’s answer to Billie Holiday,» Dalton’s hauntingly beautiful and bluesy voice matches her wide open musical approach, blending folk, country, soul and jazz, exemplified here with George Jones’ “Take Me” and Holland-Dozier-Holland’s Marvin Gaye hit “How Sweet It Is.” Highlights include the stunning opener «Something On Your Mind» and the dark, mournful and sparsely accompanied folk classic «Katie Cruel.» Karen Dalton was a transcendental singer, leaving no listener untouched.

Such a shame there were so few of them while she still was alive, in her own time.

Reklamer

Terry Callier: What Color Is Love

In the early 1970s, Chicago singer-songwriter and jazz guitarist Terry Callier cut three astonishing albums for the Chess Records subsidiary Cadet: Occasional Rain and What Color Is Love (both 1972), and I Just Can’t Help Myself (1974). Here Callier fully displays his masterful ability to intertwine folk, rock, soul and jazz, and What Color Is Love shines particularly bright among the three.

This is a kaleidoscopic album of timeless beauty and enduring quality – sublime orchestration, funky grooves and lush arrangements add further texture to Callier’s rich, mellow voice and exquisite songwriting. In 2012 Terry Callier passed away at the age of 67, and despite being re-discovered by the British acid jazz scene in the early ’90s, he never really got the recognition he deserved.

He ranks up there with (his childhood friend) Curtis Mayfield, Isaac Hayes and Gil Scott-Heron, and on ‘What Color Is Love’ he outshines them all. Just put on the epic opener «Dancing Girl» and check out for yourself.

The Record Collection: 1989 – 1


My album collection, presented in chronological order from when it was bought from January 1988 – revisited one at the time. This is the first batch from 1989.

Jesus Chrysler | This Year’s Savior | Toxic Shock 1988 |


I knew next to nothing about Jesus Chrysler when I bought this LP, and can’t tell much more about them 30 years later. But now we’ve got Google. Not much is shared about Jesus Chrysler though, but they were from Oak Ridge, Tennessee, toured a bit with fellow Toxic Shock label mates Hickoids (more about them later), John Peel fancied their powerful tunes – and then they apparently disappeared at some point with this sole LP as their only legacy. There are no single hits here, but heck, this is one packed album of infectious songwriting, a good sense of humor and just about the right balance of hardcore punk and power pop. They used to be labeled as ‘hardcore pop’ by Toxic Shock – such a beloved label – and that’s just about right. (PS: Search led me to a Jesus Chrysler from St. Paul, but that’s a completely different band).

Elvis Hitler | Disgraceland | Restless 1988 |


Rockabilly punk from Detroit with lots of redneck humor, kinda like a mix of Mojo Nixon & Skid Roper and Nine Pound Hammer with a dash of The Cramps. ‘Disgraceland’ is one wild and ferocious ride, never too serious, and far less offensive than the band name suggests. Song titles like «Cool Daddy in a Cadillac» and «Hot Rod to Hell» says it all, and make sure not to miss «Green Haze» – a hilarious mash up of the lyrics to «Green Acres» with the melody of «Purple Haze».

The Reivers | End of the Day | Capitol 1989 |


The Reivers made some of the finest southern pop of the 1980s, starting off as Zeitgeist a couple years earlier. ‘End of the Day’ is a warm breeze of an album, gravitating around the gracious interplay between singers and guitarists John Croslin and Kim Longacre. Not quite jangle pop, nor southern gothic, even if their name is taken from a William Faulkner novel. The Austin, Texas band created a lush, gentle and mature pop album here, timeless in style and tone. The album cover sets the mood; this is one for those long, hot summer nights out on the porch.

The Pogues | If I Should Fall From Grace With God | Pogue Mahone 1988 |


He was a drunkard that almost lost it all, but Shane MacGowan is also such a tremendous songwriter and The Pogues were an astonishing band at the height of their career. And never did they sound better than here – under the firm guidance of producer Steve Lillywhite. ‘If I Should Fall From Grace With God’ has it all; the wild fury from their live shows, brilliant lyrics, and some of their most memorable tunes (the Christmas evergreen “Fairytale of New York”, once perfectly nailed by The Guardian “as good an example as any of MacGowan’s unerring ability to locate the romance in ruined lives”). Also including the Middle Eastern tinged “Turkish Song of the Damned”, politically charged «Streets of Sorrow»/»Birmingham Six» and their epic Irish-American emigration anthem “Thousands Are Sailing.” This is a classic album from start to finish, and the finest The Pogues ever made.

Yo La Tengo | President Yo La Tengo | Coyote 1989 |


Third album from the band that has yet to release a bad one is a mini LP consisting of both studio and a couple live recordings (from CBGB’s). It’s a short one, 30 minutes long, but packed with their signature sound where hushed down indie gems meets noisy guitar excesses. This can be exemplified by side 2, with the mind-blowing and lengthy version of «The Evil That Men Do» and a sweet take on Bob Dylan’s «I Threw It All Away». ‘President’ was my first encounter with a band that I’ve never tired of, always returns to and that continues to impress to this very day. After 30 years they’re like old friends, and in many ways they are. I still vote for them.

Violent Femmes | 3 | Slash 1989 |


Violent Femmes’ near perfect debut album turned out to be a blessing and a curse. Capturing the essence of youth with immediate and clever folk-pop anthems, the album is a forever classic that any band would have trouble matching. But all of their 1980s albums are actually well worth hearing, including this one, their fourth and awkwardly titled ‘3’. This time around, Violent Femmes returned to their stripped down roots, but with slightly less memorable songs than on their previous efforts. However, «Nightmares», «Fool in the Full Moon» and hauntingly beautiful «See My Ships» and «Nothing Worth Living For» are great additions to their catalog.

Sidewinders | ¡Cuacha! | San Jacinto/Diabolita 1989 |


I’m pretty sure I bought Sidewinders right off the bat based on their Tucson whereabouts and close connections with Giant Sand and the folks down there. Rich Hopkins does excellent guitar work throughout the album, Scott Garber guested on bass and Eric Westfall was involved with the production. I also remember how I just fell for the band name, the cover art and the title. They spoke to me. It’s been awhile since I put this one on, but it still sounds so damn good. Sidewinders operated in a rather characteristic 80’s guitar rock landscape, not too far from the LA-scene and names like The Dream Syndicate, True West and The Long Ryders; a little bit jangle, a little bit dusty country-rock and a little bit blistering pop-punk. Back then bands could juggle around; try out different stuff while finding their way. ‘¡Cuacha!’ is packed with great tracks on both sides, side 2 is even better than the first, including a lengthy version of «What She Said.» Sidewinders later became known as Sand Rubies, and they’ve been involved in varied stuff over the years. Make sure to pick up their first album if you ever stumble upon it. Another lost classic from the 1980s.

Waxing Poetics | Manakin Moon | Emergo 1988 |


Waxing Poetics was (or is, I believe they’re still up & running…) a Virgina four piece leaning towards tight and catchy Southern indie/heartland rock (think House of Freaks, Drivin’ N Cryin’, The Del-Lords). For the sophomore album ‘Manakin Moon’ they cleaned up the sound and let the guitars rock harder and more prominently than on their power pop debut (produced by pals Mitch Easter and R.E.M’s Mike Mills) – a slight stylistic change you’ll notice on the back cover shot where all four are dressed up in black leather jackets. My favorites here are the solid, powerful ballads like «Father, Son & Ghost» and «Downstairs,» where the great voice of lead singer David Middleton really shines. The LP also includes a somewhat surprising (and good) cover version of Brian Eno’s «Needle in the Camel’s Eye».

The Texas Instruments | The Texas Instruments | GWR 1988 |


Punks from Texas are something else, not being afraid to show off their eccentric preferences and cowboy roots. Just like the power trio The Texas Instruments. These guys sure know how to rock while staying true to their heartland hearts. Their first album is a great collection of songs, unpretentious no-nonsense style. If you like Meat Puppets, True Believers and Minutemen this is the missing link. The album includes a couple covers – Woody Guthrie’s «Do-Re-Mi» and Dylan’s «A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall»- that aren’t super necessary but adds some context to their sound. And works as reminder that it must’ve been a whole lotta fun to witness this band in their heyday. Their debut LP was originally released on Rabid Cat in 1986, this is the UK version dropped a year later – same cover and same songs. Produced by SST house producer Spot.

Cowboy Junkies | The Trinity Sessions | RCA 1989 |


Created in Toronto’s Church of the Holy Trinity, this album surely captures a holy spirit. Recorded with the band gathering around one microphone, the album is made up of truly wonderful originals and some equally great cover songs, including Hank Williams’ «I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry» and Velvet’s «Sweet Jane.» Performing in a hushed tone, quiet vocals and gentle instrumentation, this is intimate music made in a big room revealing even the smallest of details. Most albums lose some spark after awhile, this one is not of them. The album sounded timeless already at the time of its release, and still invokes an otherworldly feeling. ‘The Trinity Sessions’ was released in Canada in 1988; this international was released a year later. Cowboy Junkies have continued to make great albums up until this day. Make sure to check up on their full catalog.