Dave Van Ronk was a true force of nature, imbuing his performances with a gruff tenderness that brought his repertoire of traditional and contemporary tunes vividly to life. His 1962 Prestige album Folksinger captures him relatively early in his career, when his burly vocals and fluent acoustic guitar playing kept him at the forefront of the Greenwich Village coffeehouse scene. Performing solo, Van Ronk interprets these songs with sensitivity and insight while putting his stylistic stamp on each tune. There’s an exquisite sense of sorrow in his treatments of “He Was a Friend of Mine” and “Hang Me, Oh Hang Me” that brings out the pathos of these traditional laments. He’s just as good at embodying the carnal spirit running through “Cocaine Blues” and “You’ve Been a Good Old Wagon.” Van Ronk’s trademark growls and roars are very much in evidence on outlaw ballads like “Stackerlee” and “Long John.” Whether the mood is whimsical (“Mr. Noah”), heroic (“Samson and Delilah”), or dreamily melancholy (“Come Back Baby”), Van Ronk is masterfully in command of his material.

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