Inside Dave Van Ronk

2014 saw the release of the film ‘Inside Llewyn Davis’. I wanted to see this film because it was written and directed by the Coen Brothers who also created a favourite film of mine called ‘O Brother, Where Art Thou?’. The thing I like about the Coen Brothers is their love of music which can be heard in all their films, and as this new film was related to music, I had to see it. The film itself was great but the soundtrack was even better and I have to say the lead actor Oscar Issac has such an amazing voice. I highly recommend you see this film and listen to its soundtrack.

The reason that I am writing this post is that this film was influenced by the life of the musician Dave Van Ronk. This Brooklyn born musician, nicknamed the ‘Mayor of MacDougal Street’, settled in Greenwich Village in New York where he not only showcased his musical talent, but he also mentored young musicians and songwriters which included Bob Dylan. When I learned this, I wanted to find out more about him and his music.

I checked out Dave’s music by listening to his ‘best of’ album called ‘Fare Thee Well’ and what I heard was something special. This sound was a merger of a simplistic folk/Americana sound with old school blues which together seemed to be a sound that could be described as personal musical holy grail for me. Don’t get me wrong, I have heard other musicians attempt this sound but none seem to get the right balance until now. My world of music would never be the same again and I can’t believe I did not know about this musician until now.

After hearing this album I wanted to hear more, but I stopped myself as I wanted to wait until I purchased his music. I’m not sure why I decided to do this, maybe it was a subconscious sign of respect for his musical art. I purchased the remastered version of ‘Inside Dave Van Ronk’ which combined Dave’s albums ‘Dave Van Ronk/Folksinger’ and ‘Inside Dave Van Ronk’. This brought together 25 tracks that showcased his great sound that included amazing guitar work as well as his superb storytelling abilities. My first listen of this album was done using my good quality headphone to increase my listening pleasure. From start to finish, I was in awe of the music that was rough around the edges but this gave the music character due to its more natural sound. I have mentioned on this blog that I love music that involves a singer and their guitar, this album shows how good this combination can sound.

It took me a few listens of the album to select my highlights, as I kept getting immersed in the music, I guess this is a sign of how much I adore his sound. It came as no surprise that most of these songs had a heavier influence of the blues which was evident on ‘You’ve been a good old wagon’, ‘He was a friend of mine’, ‘Come back baby’ and ‘Poor Lazarus.

My favourite ‘Hang me, oh Hang me’ featured on the ‘Inside Llewyn Davis’ soundtrack. I loved this song when I heard it on the film but the original version from Dave Van Ronk cemented this song as one of my all time favourite songs. I am not sure why, as its does not feature an upbeat or positive lyrics but I still highly rate this song due to its descriptive story. I must mention that after listening to the original version of the song that Oscar Issac did a fantastic cover for the film. Overall, an outstanding album which is a hidden gem that people should know about. Personally, I rate it as a classic!

As I write this post I have just ordered three more albums from Dave Van Rank which are ‘Two Sides of Dave Van Ronk‘, ‘Going Back To Brooklyn’ and ‘Mayor Of Macdougal Street: Rarities 1957-1969. I can’t wait to hear what new musical treasures are waiting for me, I feel like a kid waiting for Christmas while I wait for these CDs to be delivered.

Since discovering the music of Dave Van Ronk I was sad to learn that he is no longer with us, but what he left behind is an amazing musical legacy. It does make me happy to learn that he did receive a Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) in December 1997. Nice to see recognition for his work.

I have mentioned in a previous post that if I was a singer that I would love to sing a style with a bluesy sound and now I know exactly how that would sound, just like Dave Van Ronk! I guess this now shows how much his music has influenced me and this is all thanks to the Coen Brother’s film ‘Inside Llewyn Davis’.

If you are a fan of music with a folk/blues soul with an amazing storytelling content then you really need to listen to the music from Dave Van Ronk. You never know, his music may become a new favourite like it has with me. It is a shame that he is no longer with us as this is a musician that I would be supporting. Wait, I can still support his music as it continues to live and gain new fans, I am proof of that. Go on, give his music a listen today!