With his first recording for Folkways in 1959, Dave Van Ronk entered into the American folk lexicon like a kind old grizzly. His influence was massive. Everyone, from Dylan on down, recognizes him as an influence. His passion and knowledge were boundless. His interpretations of country blues, blues, and jazz literally reconfigured the whole folk boom of the early 60's. Artists today may only recognize the people he mentored, but the roots, as they always do, trace back.
Believe it or not, this reissue of a limited 1991 release is the only recording Dave Van Ronk made consisting entirely of originals. And original they are. Would anyone else have the balls to record the anti-war Luang Prabang ('I came back from Luang Prabang / with nothing where the balls used to hang … now I'm a f***ing hero')? I doubt it.
With that booming, gnarled gargle of a voice, Van Ronk serves up Last Call (a sad and humorous look at drunkenness written after a drunken all-nighter with Leonard Cohen and Joni Mitchell). Garden State Rag takes a good many of those improbable Jersey town names (Cheesequake, anyone?) and makes a song out of them. Gaslight Rag is a tribute to you-know where. All hail the musical mayor of MacDougal Street!
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