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Songs for Ageing Children

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Album Review

Dave Van Ronk albums tend to be few and far between, but his profile in record stores may have been raised by the release of two reissues in 1972, both of them called Van Ronk. (The one on Fantasy Records contained two LPs previously released by Prestige; the one on Polydor compiled material previously released by Mercury.) So, here he is on Cadet Records, and he begins by revisiting the first song on his first album, "Duncan & Brady," which led off 1959's Dave Van Ronk Sings Blues, Ballads & a Spiritual. But here it's given a folk-rock arrangement, with an electric guitar, electric bass, piano, and drums augmenting the acoustic guitar. Other arrangements are quieter (the next song, Len Chandler's "Green Rocky Road," has a bass thumping along beneath what sound like two fingerpicked guitars, but nothing else), but Van Ronk has made his point that this is not a folk-blues album. He also deliberately mixes up the material, combining the songs of Joni Mitchell ("River," but not her "Songs for Aging Children," despite the album title) and Randy Newman ("Sail Away") with Brecht/Weill's "As You Make Your Bed"; folk-blues in his old manner (the Reverend Gary Davis' "Candy Man"); R&B ("Work with Me Annie"); novelties ("Teddy Bear's Picnic" and "My Little Grass Shack [In Kealakekua, Hawaii]"); and even a couple of originals that close either side of the LP. "Song for Joni" is a gently sung but desperate reflection on a world overrun by rats, while "Last Call" appropriately sounds like a song to be sung by a drunken man right before the bar closes. This is a varied set, as if Van Ronk were trying to cover a lot of bases against the chance that he might not get another opportunity to record again soon.


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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