You could just about eat her voice for dinner: it’s the gravy spilling out of a chicken pie, the flinty click of a fork on the plate, the crackle of the woodstove.
But it’s also the sound of grass. A gravestone. Dead wood.
Despite her talent, she was a commercial failure. She hated to record and wasn’t wild about performing. She wrote some songs, but refused to sing them, instead covering the folk and blues songs of others. There are only a handful of recordings that illuminate her. Take 1966: the tracks were recorded reel-to-reel in a Colorado cabin–she was rehearsing and a friend had brought a tape recorder. Those tapes lay buried until Delmore Recording Society dug them out, releasing them in 2012.
Listen to Karen’s take on Tim Hardin’s “Reason To Believe,” made famous instead by Rod Stewart.
Another Delmore release is Green Rocky Road. This is Karen recording mostly alone––when no one’s going to hear it, it’s easier to sing.
That kind of humility doesn’t sell.