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The Folkways Years 1959-1961

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In his characteristically sardonic liner notes to this compilation of his earliest recordings, Dave Van Ronk denies that he was ever a folksinger. While such a declaration may seem ludicrous on its face, Van Ronk's perspective contributes to an understanding of his musical approach. When he made these recordings for Folkways Records between 1959 and 1961, he was coming out of years of playing banjo and singing (unamplified) with a traditional jazz band; he turned to fingerpicking an acoustic guitar and singing the songs of old folk-blues musicians like Blind Boy Fuller, Blind Lemon Jefferson, and the Reverend Gary Davis as the "trad" fad gave way and the folk revival gained momentum in the late ‘50s. But he continued to play and sing hard, as if still trying to be heard over Dixieland arrangements. That sounded unusual to the more polite folk audiences of the time, in contrast to singers who played tame versions of traditional folk and blues tunes. But more than three decades later, it keeps Van Ronk's performances from sounding as dated as those of many of his peers do. Nobody worries much anymore about an articulate, urban white man trying to sound like an unlettered, rural black man, and these recordings have proven very influential. For example, it's possible to hear a good part of Hot Tuna's acoustic repertoire in the music Van Ronk was making here a decade earlier. If he was imitating the originators at the time, now he sounds like a master whose work has been emulated by the rock musicians who followed him (and who made a lot more money doing so than he ever did).


Né(e) : 30 juin 1936 à Brooklyn, NY

Genre : Auteur-interprète

Années d’activité : '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

Guitarist, singer, songwriter, and native New Yorker Dave Van Ronk inspired, aided, and promoted the careers of numerous singer/songwriters who came up in the blues tradition. Most notable of the many musicians he helped over the years was Bob Dylan, whom Van Ronk got to know shortly after Dylan moved to New York in 1961 to pursue a life as a folk/blues singer. Van Ronk's recorded output was healthy, but he was never as prolific a songwriter as some of his friends from that era, like Dylan or Tom...
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