Ten years after they were recorded together in April 1962 for the Folkore imprint of the independent jazz label Prestige Records, Dave Van Ronk's albums, Dave Van Ronk, Folksinger and Inside Dave Van Ronk, packaged together here as a two-fer LP by Fantasy Records (which has acquired Prestige), sound remarkably fresh. At the time, Van Ronk was something of an anomaly, since he was neither a smooth-singing commercial folksinger nor a singer/songwriter, but rather a performer steeped in folk-blues tradition, addressing the songs of progenitors like the Rev. Gary Davis in his own distinctive style. That may have meant that, as a sleeve note here puts it, "the full public acceptance he so convincingly deserves has somehow eluded him," but it also means he has turned out to be very influential, particularly on the wave of blues-rock artists who emerged in the late '60s. On these tracks, he revives songs from Harry Smith's Anthology of American Folk Music like "House Carpenter," along with folk-blues standards such as "Samson & Delilah," "Cocaine Blues," and "Stackalee," accompanying himself primarily on his fingerpicked acoustic guitar, but also on dulcimer and autoharp on some of the Inside Dave Van Ronk selections. His gruff voice, which seemed so out of place in the early-‘60s folk revival now seems more familiar in the wake of Joe Cocker and Rod Stewart, not to mention Bob Dylan, on whom he was also a major influence. (Dylan's own versions of some of these songs have appeared on bootlegs.) Thus, the Dave Van Ronk of the Prestige sessions (who is not all that different from the Dave Van Ronk who made his first two albums for Folkways or the Dave Van Ronk of 1972) sounds even more impressive after a decade than he did the first time around.
AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann