Wednesday, 5 September 2007

In Her Own Time

Download: Katie Cruel (live recording from Cotton Eye Joe)

Tragic is a word applied to every female who picks up a wine glass recently.

While their male counterparts are alternately condemned and idolised as desirable rebels, all a female with an appetite for mild self destruction can hope to achieve is a smug dose of pity.

"The hangovers she must have! A stomach pumping?!" coo the press, too busy basking in their glee to realise that their 15 year old daughter has been subjected to the same treatment. Too gleeful to remember that they were too.

It's true that tragedy just makes a better news story but Amy Winehouse's inclusion in a list of tortured artists ranging from Billie Holiday to Jeff Buckley was a bit much. Tragic? The girl just likes a drink.

However, someone who really should have been included is Karen Dalton. The texture of her quivering, blues drenched vocals, accompanied by skilled banjo or 12 string guitar is haunting. She sings and plays so effortlessly that listening feels like pressing your ear to a wall where on the other side, unaware of an audience, she immerses herself in songs. In fact that probably would have been her ideal way to play, she hated recording and her first album It's Hard To Tell Who's Going To Love You The Best was taped secretly as she strummed and sung away in the studio, making it even more poignant.

Despite support from Bob Dylan among others ("Karen had a voice like Billie Holiday's and played the guitar like Jimmy Reed."), her two studio albums failed to sell, her personal life spiralled downwards and her music into obscurity.

In the last few years, reissues have done their best to resolve this, released with sleeve notes written by fans such as Nick Cave. Once heard she's impossible to forget.

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