Dave van Ronk in Concert
Dave Van Ronk has been touring pretty much steadily for the past 44 years, and, oddly, he seems only to get better at it.
Dave is famous for a lot of things he isn't. No, he didn't really discover, create, or launch Bob Dylan. No, unlike some people he has been associated with, such as Tom Paxton and Phil Ochs, Dave Van Ronk doesn't sing protest songs, or as Dave dubs them, songs of "social patriotism." No, Dave is not going on revival tours -- he never stopped touring and he never stopping exploring.
I've heard Dave tell of the Greek legend of Antaeus, a giant who could not be defeated as long as his feet were on the ground. Dave is on the side of the giant. As performer, mentor, and reinventor, he serves as one of our best connections with traditional music, making it known and keeping it healthy. If some songwriters these days can only pull on musical roots that go back as far as Bob Dylan, Dave Van Ronk grounds his music in a surprising number of 20th century music sources, Louis Armstrong, Bessie Smith, Jelly Roll Morton, Uncle Dave Macon, Scott Joplin, Joni Mitchell, Kurt Weill, Brownie McGee, Arthur Godfrey, and Christine Lavin.
Dave Van Ronk doesn't always get credit for what he is best at. Quite simply, Dave Van Ronk is a masterful entertainer. He is adept at several instruments, and is one of the best three-finger-style guitar pickers of all time. He's one of those guys who can make his guitar sound like two -- one for the bass line and the other for the melody. He is a marvelous raconteur and has been in a bunch of the right places. At any given time he could probably break out into one of more than 300 songs. Dave is justly known for his special kind of urban country blues, but he both transcends and defies musical genre, borrowing from ragtime, jugband, cabaret, and his first love, jazz. His gravelly voice may sound as though he has been chain smoking for 50 years, and some wags may claim he doesn't sing (only bellow, shout, and moan), but when he engulfs himself in a song, especially an old blues ballad, there's no more powerful singer.
Please join the Cornell Folk Song Club on Saturday, February 12, 8pm at the James Law Auditorium in Schurmann Hall at the Vet School. That's the building at the far end of Tower Road. Unlike some places at Cornell, there is lots of parking nearby.
Tickets are available at Rebop, Borealis, and Bound for Glory or by contacting Ginny Gartlein at 272-3471, or Ken McKinney at firstname.lastname@example.org.