Dave Van Ronk didn't care to be called a folksinger; as a singer and guitarist he was informed by a rich variety of American music, including blues, gospel, jazz, and ragtime as well as traditional melodies. But Van Ronk was a champion of acoustic music in New York City in the '50s and '60s as the folk revival was coming into vogue, and he mentored many of the young folkies who came to the city hoping to make their name, lending them advice and often a couch to sleep on (Bob Dylan was just one of many young performers who camped out at Van Ronk's place when he first arrived in New York). Affectionately dubbed "the Mayor of MacDougal Street," Van Ronk was an influential artist with a singular style; he had a gruff but expressive voice that he could bend to nearly any style he wished with his witty and thoughtful phrasing, and he was a gifted guitarist whose jazzy fingerpicking was a far cry from the generic strum of many of his compatriots. Van Ronk never became a major star, but he enjoyed a long and celebrated career, recording and performing up to his death in 2002; Live in Monterey is a previously unreleased recording of Van Ronk working his magic for an audience in California on April 4, 1998, and while the performance features just Van Ronk's voice and guitar, this album demonstrates how much he could conjure with such simple ingredients, and ranks with his best live releases.
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AllMusic Review by Mark Deming