Montag, 19. September 2016

Dave Van Ronk - Sings Ballads, Blues and a Spiritual (1959)

"Although I can appreciate the ‘white approach’ to Negro folksongs and enjoy the work of many of its adherents, I still reserve the right to sing these songs in the style to which I am accustomed, partly because of habit, and partly, I confess, because I feel that my way is the ‘right way'." - Dave Van Ronk

As heard on this, his debut album for Folkways Records, Dave Van Ronk's approach to performing traditional folk songs and blues tunes is sufficiently unusual to require a sleeve note from the singer to justify it. Unlike other white, Northern, urban folksingers, who perform such material but do so in their own natural voices, Van Ronk takes much of his style from the black, Southern, rural singers who have performed it before him.

Pete Seeger, Folkways' flagship artist, also sings "John Henry," for instance, but he sounds like the well-educated, polished performer he is, and renders the song rather than investing himself in it emotionally. Van Ronk sings the same song as if he were a black blues singer. His justification is that he first encountered such songs as performed by such singers, citing Furry Lewis, King Solomon Hill, and Leadbelly, and noting "when I tried to sing these songs I naturally imitated what I heard." Of course, Seeger, who actually knew Leadbelly, could have taken the same approach had he wanted to. Van Ronk reveals more of his stance by referring to the "white approach" (the quotation marks are his), which he contrasts to his way, the "right way" (again, his quotes). Actually, listening to this album, it's hard to imagine Van Ronk even being able to take the white approach, even though he is himself white, since his voice is such a gravel-filled croak. By aping black singers, he is able to use his limited instrument to expressive effect, practically whispering one moment and roaring the next. So, it may be that the way he "naturally" took to performing is really that; he couldn't sing like Seeger if he wanted to, but he can sing in a way that serves the material and, despite the attempt at imitation, comes off as his own individual sound.       

This 1959 release was Van Ronk’s first record. It was also released on LP as Gambler's Blues and as Black Mountain Blues. All these releases are out of print.


A1Duncan And Brady
A2Black Mountain Blues
A3In The Pines
A4My Baby's So Sweet
A5Twelve Gates To The City
A6Winin' Boy
A7If You Leave Me Pretty Momma
B1Backwater Blues
B2Careless Love
B3Betty And Dupree
B4K. C. Moan
B5Gambler's Blues
B6John Henry
B7How Long

Dave Van Ronk - Sings Ballads, Blues and a Spiritual (1959)  
(ca. 192 kbps, cover art included)   

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