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Dave Van Ronk Sings

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iTunes Review

Greenwich Village folk revival linchpin Dave Van Ronk's singular slant on interpreting traditional tunes and pre-WWII blues was already fully fleshed out by 1961, when his second album was unveiled. Van Ronk sets the tone straight out of the gate here, with a version of Lonnie Johnson's "Bedbug Blues" as piercing and relentless as the bite of the pests the song laments. His grizzly bear growl and falling-spikes guitar lines add urgency and menace where other singers might have been satisfied with wry humor. His doomy, deadpan take on Blind Lemon Jefferson's "See That My Grave Is Kept Clean" was almost certainly a model for the version that appeared on Bob Dylan's debut the following year, further establishing Van Ronk's primacy in the '60s folk scene. And when Van Ronk roars and slashes his way through the hot-jazz-era standard "Willie the Weeper" (popularized by Louis Armstrong), his perennial claim that he considered himself a jazz singer rather than a folkie starts to make sense.

Customer Reviews

Dave Opened My Ears

When I first heard this album, I was twelve years old and thought that "folk music" was The Kingston Trio and the New Christy Minstrels. Listening to Dave opened me up to a music I hadn't heard before. True, he wasn't the son of a Mississippi sharecropper, but he sang with a feeling and intensity that was compelling. I learned that those qualities were more important than a pretty voice and soon began listening to Leadbelly and many other musicians. I highly recommend it to anyone who will take their blues mixed with Brooklyn Irish wit.


Born: June 30, 1936 in Brooklyn, NY

Genre: Singer/Songwriter

Years Active: '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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