A bit of an addendum to that attempted Karen Dalton oral history thing from a while back:
The story has always been that Karen was a gifted song interpreter who never wrote any songs of her own, and the only “original” material to surface was a poem printed in the liner notes of It’s so Hard to Tell Who’s Going to Love You the Best.
Turns out the story was wrong. In 2012 Peter Walker self-published a book of lyrics, poems, and writings from Karen’s diaries. I didn’t know anything about that until about a week ago. And now there’s Remembering Mountains: Unheard Songs by Karen Dalton — an album featuring eleven different artists grafting their own music and voices to Karen’s long-lost words, Woody Guthrie/Mermaid Avenue style.
It’s worth owning just for the title track, sung by Sharon Van Etten, with music that for once comes from Karen herself (she wrote the song’s chords above the words). No one sings like Karen did, but I’m not sure I can think of anyone else with a voice evocative and fragile-but-strong enough to do the job in her absence. If anyone does anything more sadly beautiful than this song this year, I’ll produce the dance hit of the summer and eat my invisible hat in one fell swoop.