It's So Hard to Tell Who's Going to Love You the Best
||"Little Bit of Rain"
||"How Did the Feeling Feel to You"
"If I should leave you, try to remember all the good times."
Jesus. These are the first lines we hear Karen Dalton beg on this
magical collection of recordings titled, It's So Hard to Tell
Who's Going to Love You the Best, the only recordings available
of Dalton on CD. Karen Dalton was the "queen" of the
early-'60s Greenwich Village folk scene. As her former husband,
Richard Tucker, states in the liner notes included with this dazzling
and much deserved reissue, there were thousands of other girls
with acoustic guitars clutched firmly in hand, folkies with big,
idealistic dreams, headed for the big, idealistic city, but with
just a line, one simple cooed, broken-hearted phrase, Dalton could
reduce the rest to a bunch of "corny school girls."
It's no wonder in Chronicles, Bob Dylan himself calls Dalton
one of his favorite singers, period. I wonder what Fred Neil thought
to himself on the night he invited Dalton over to his sessions
with legendary producer Nik Venet, and she single-handedly recorded
this entire set in that one lone evening. Magical.
Billie Holiday. Her name always comes up when discussing Dalton.
If only because Dalton's voice was as dynamic, and brassy, and
laced with such weight, and with such hurt, and with a jazz singer's
virtuosity that Holiday might be in a class of her own, if Dalton
didn't sing the blues so damn blue too. However, as rich and effortlessly
expressive as Dalton's vocals were, she was every bit the marvel
on her 12-string Gibson, or banjo, as well. In fact, Dalton may
have been too inventive a player, too much an original
for her own good. She had a meditative, billowy approach--each
note hanging like a smoke ring slowly dissolving in air. Dalton
savored each song, each line. The completely unhurried
quality to her performances made it almost impossible for her
to play with a band, which is part of the reason Dalton so seldomly
recorded. Her entire output is limited to the songs on this compilation,
and a somewhat disappointing out-of-print release titled In
My Own Time, from 1971.
Somehow, though, all Dalton really needed was this one set of
songs to make her point. It's So Hard to Tell is, and will
always be, one of the most cherished collections of tunes to ever
have been put to tape. It is timeless music, universal music.
Dark and bitter enough to satisfy fans of Tom Waits or Beth Gibbons,
rootsy and folky enough for fans of Fred Neil or The Band, so
mellow, blue, and stoner-paced it's like a slacker's indie-rock
wet dream, and yet at times, it's so brazen it could be a jazz
record too. At 10 songs, It's So Hard to Tell contains
multitudes. This new French import reissue version, sadly, may
not contain any new tracks; it does, however, have a DVD with
four rare live performances from Dalton--one of which sees her
covering "God Bless the Child." Why Megaphone chose
to overdub French narration over parts of it is anybody's guess,
however, just seeing Dalton sing is enough. The DVD matched
with the thorough new liner notes makes this version a must for
the Dalton fanatics. One of my favorite records ever. Essential.