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  • Down in Washington Square: The Smithsonian Folkways Collection, Smithsonian Folkways Recordings release from 2013

    Down in Washington Square: The Smithsonian Folkways Collection, Smithsonian Folkways Recordings release from 2013

    New Dave Van Ronk release Down In Washington Square: The Smithsonian Folkways Collection (Out October 29)

    Called “The Mayor of MacDougal Street,” Dave Van Ronk (1936-2002) was a leading figure in the Greenwich Village music scene for more than four decades. He epitomized the urban “folksinger”— apprenticing through immersion in the music revival’s New York City epicenter of Washington Square Park. A raconteur as well as a “guru on the mountain,” he taught and advised musicians including Bob Dylan, Danny Kalb, Christine Lavin, Jack Hardy, Suzanne Vega, Bill Morrissey, and many more. His legacy as a singer, guitarist, songwriter, and grand mentor of the folk and blues revivals is collected in a 54-track, 3-disc set featuring 16 previously unreleased recordings. Down in Washington Square: The Smithsonian Folkways Collection, compiled and annotated by GRAMMY-winning Smithsonian Folkways archivist Jeff Place, will be released October 29 on Smithsonian Folkways.

    Van Ronk’s version of “Dink’s Song,” which is also performed by Oscar Isaac and Marcus Mumford on the soundtrack for the upcoming Coen Brothers film Inside Llewyn Davis, will be available September 10 as a digital download from other retailers.

    The 3-disc set paints a musical mosaic of Van Ronk’s artistry from early live recordings made in 1958 (the year before his first Folkways album) to his final studio recordings in 2001, just months before his death. The collection also includes his full set from a 1997 concert presented by the Smithsonian in tandem with the reissue of the Anthology of American Folk Music, four songs of which are available for the first time. Liner notes include a detailed biography and song annotations by Place, and a heartfelt essay by Van Ronk’s widow, Andrea Vuocolo, that incorporates the last song lyrics he wrote, appropriately titled “Down in Washington Square.”

    Van Ronk was born in Brooklyn and learned to play ukulele, banjo, and guitar at an early age. His first love was jazz, which alongside Harry Smith’s Anthology of American Folk Music had a profound impact on his performing and writing. In the early 1950s, he started to spend time at the jam sessions at the fountain in Washington Square Park, which were attracting the likes of Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie, and in 1957 Odetta encouraged him to perform his songs in concert. His first album, recorded for Folkways in 1959, was Ballads, Blues and a Spiritual. The follow-up, Dave Van Ronk Sings, was released in 1961. Included here also are songs from Foc’sle Songs and Shanties, a 1959 collection of sea shanties that featured Van Ronk and Paul Clayton. During his career, he developed a large repertoire drawing from a wide range of styles, including traditional folk and blues, his own tunes, and compositions by Mississippi John Hurt, Reverend Gary Davis, Bessie Smith, Bob Dylan, Billie Holiday, Jelly Roll Morton, Josh White, and countless others.

    This December, the award-winning Coen Brothers will release the film Inside Llewyn Davis, inspired by Dave Van Ronk’s autobiography “The Mayor of MacDougal Street” and its recollections of life in the Village in the early '60s. The film and its soundtrack feature “Dink’s Song,” which was collected by John Lomax in 1908 and recorded by Van Ronk for Folkways in 1961 (among many other versions recorded during the folk revival and since).

    DISC 1:

    1. Duncan and Brady 3:02
    2. River Come Down (Bamboo) 3:47
    3. Spike Driver Blues 3:17
    4. John Henry 2:28
    5. Backwater Blues 3:04
    6. K.C. Moan 3:04
    7. Haul on the Bowline 1:21
    8. Just a Closer Walk with Thee 3:04
    9. Gambler’s Blues 2:30
    10. Sweet Substitute 2:36
    11. Bed Bug Blues 2:46
    12. Winin’ Boy 2:38
    13. Georgie and the IRT 3:35
    14. Betty and Dupree 3:37
    15. Come Back, Baby 3:55
    16. My Baby’s So Sweet 2:35
    17. Black Mountain Blues 4:02
    18. Ya-Yas-Yas 2:09

    DISC 2:

    1. Willie the Weeper 3:01
    2. Dink’s Song 3:46
    3. Santy Ano 1:45
    4. Leave Her, Johnny 1:30
    5. Tell Old Bill 4:24
    6. Careless Love 2:59
    7. Standing by My Window 5:00
    8. Please See My Grave Is Kept Clean 2:56
    9. Had More Money 2:57 (Dave Van Ronk) ++
    10. If You Leave Me, Pretty Mama 3:09
    11. Hesitation Blues 2:36
    12. In the Pines 3:08
    13. Oh, What a Beautiful City 3:15
    14. Mean Old Frisco 3:16++
    15. Stackalee 2:34++
    16. How Long 3:56
    17. Ain’t No Grave Can Hold My Body Down 4:54
    18. House of the Rising Sun 6:03++

    DISC 3:

    1. Hootchie Kootchie Man 3:16
    2. Reckless Blues 2:30++
    3. Trouble in Mind 3:48++
    4. Oh Lord, Search My Heart (1:32)++
    5. God Bless the Child 3:18++
    6. Losers 3:18
    7. Another Time and Place 4:31
    8. Garden State Stomp 3:00
    9. Motherless Children 3:12
    10. Don’t You Leave Me Here (I’m Alabama Bound) 4:35++
    11. Spike Driver Blues 6:56
    12. Down South Blues 5:03++
    13. St. James Infirmary (Gambler’s Blues) 4:41++
    14. Ace in the Hole 3:27++
    15. Going Down Slow++
    16. Buckets of Rain 3:52++
    17. Jelly Jelly 2:58++
    18. Sometime (Whatcha Gonna Do) 2:38++

    ++previously unreleased track

    New Dave Van Ronk release Down In Washington Square: The Smithsonian Folkways Collection (Out October 29) | Smithsonian Folkways Recordings