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Music

California Sounds: Shannon Lay covers Karen Dalton, and Sarah Davachi teases new album

Shannon Lay
Shannon Lay, who just released a cover of Karen Dalton’s “Something on Your Mind.”
(Denele Segall )

Shannon Lay, “Something on Your Mind” (Sub Pop). That so few people have heard singer-songwriter Karen Dalton’s sublime 1971 folk-rock album “In My Own Time” is a shame (but can be rectified). Luckily, Los Angeles musician Lay is helping spread the gospel with a new rendition of the album’s first song.

A mournful work about courage, regret and time, Lay’s version offers more delicacy than Dalton’s cigarette-scratched original. Dalton, who wrestled with addiction and alcoholism until her death in 1993, wasn’t a great advocate for herself, but she’s a crucial voice.

Rolling through a finger-picked acoustic opening, Lay unfurls the first notes as though spreading a blanket on grass, then stacks her voice in layers as she sets a tone: “Yesterday, any way you made it was just fine / So you turned your days into nighttime,” she sings before moving into the refrain: “Didn’t you know, you can’t make it without ever even trying?”

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The release is the first from a just-announced union between Lay, who is also a member of the post-punk band Feels, and the famed Seattle label Sub Pop. No word yet on a Sub Pop album, but Lay’s busy this summer. She’s joined on as a member of kindred spirit Ty Segall’s Freedom Band for a series of shows in New York and Los Angeles.

Sarah Davachi, “Perfumes III” (West 25th/Superior Viaduct). The debut song from the Mills College-trained multi-instrumentalist’s rich, beat-less new album, “Pale Bloom,” finds her more focused on her primary instrument, piano, after a series of works that were heavy on organs and analog synths. That’s not to say that she’s abandoned anything; across the four long tracks on the record, she blends and weaves hammer strikes and breathy pipe organ notes.

An experimentalist more interested in exploring calmness than chaos, the Los Angeles-based Davachi on “Perfumes III” wanders a realm connecting contemplative jazz, Erik Satie-esque meditation and Brian Eno-inspired ambient music. She weaves in reverse-tracked textures on “Perfumes I,” and on “Perfumes II” manipulates a melancholy voice until it drones with a Scott Walker-suggestive longing.

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For tips, records, snapshots and stories on Los Angeles music culture, follow Randall Roberts on Twitter and Instagram: @liledit. Email: randall.roberts@latimes.com.


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