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Dave Van Ronk: Sweet and Lowdown

You expect to hear the name Dave van Ronk alongside those of Dylan, Baez and Farina, not Gershwin, Berlin and Kahn. Last year, though, the blues-folk legend decided it was finally time for a full-length dip into the great American songbook. On Sweet & Lowdown (Justin Time JUST 166-2; 60:12) van Ronk hooks up with pianist/arranger Keith Ingham and a host of other first-rate helpers and wraps that inimitable bourbon-and-broken-glass voice of his around 15 choice cuts. From the sweet sentimentality of “I’ll See You in My Dreams” to the subdued optimism of “Bye Bye Blackbird” and comic delights of “Your Feet’s Too Big,” van Ronk unleashes a solid hour of unflagging pleasure. Choosing a single highlight is impossible, but his delightful update of “Puttin’ On the Ritz”-replete with references to gold cards, cell phones and arugula-is simply priceless. By the way, the old master also has impeccable taste in songbirds. Sarah Partridge enriches both “Thanks for the Memory” and “Zoot Suit,” and Andrea Vuocolo (aka Mrs. van Ronk) proves the perfect foil with her playful, Helen Kane-esque contributions to “I’d Rather Charleston.”

Originally Published