Dave Van Ronk

On Air

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Although Dave Van Ronk managed to make many albums over the course of a long career, he was primarily a solo concert artist, and this recording, made in a theater in Bremen, Germany, in 1993, captures a somewhat typical performance by the then-56-year-old performer. As annotator Harald Moenkedieck points out, Van Ronk had a tendency to tell stories on-stage, but he kept the commentary to a minimum here, perhaps in deference to a non-English-speaking audience, so there's more music and less talking than might be usual. But the repertoire is typical, ranging from traditional folk songs to folk-blues and jazz tunes, as well as reflections on the same, such as Tom Paxton's tribute to "John Hurt." Van Ronk draws from the catalog of Billie Holiday (whom he saw singing at Cafe Society in his youth) and even sings his version of "House of the Rising Sun" (which he declined to record after his friend Bob Dylan borrowed his arrangement for his debut album in 1962, only to have the Animals in turn borrow it again for their 1964 hit recording). This is a representative performance by a versatile folk-based singer/guitarist who was best heard in a live context, even if his many records do not reflect that.

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