Vinyl Me, Please Unboxing – Dave Van Ronk ‘Folksinger’
Good things comes in 12 inch packages. Delivering limited edition vinyl pressings of new and classic albums directly to your doorstep, VMP operates under a simple philosophy: The Album Lives! With a carefully curated catalog of new and hard to find releases, the subscription service is more than just a record club, it’s a lifestyle choice for folks who wish Record Store Day could happen every month… in their living room.
Here’s how it works. You send Vinyl Me, Please some of your hard-earned money (a 3-month membership will set you back about $119) and they send you one carefully selected album they feel is Essential to any record collection. Yes, it really is as easy as it sounds. You even get FREE SHIPPING. Each custom pressing (often on colored vinyl!) also comes with killer extras like original artwork and informative listening companion booklet.
You’ll have membership privileges in the VMP store too, which means you can grab a copy of previous VMP selections from the archives – including February’s flawless reissue of Air’s spaced-out electronic debut Moon Safari – or choose from a slate of super-limited releases pressed exclusively for Vinyl Me, Please. The store is open, and Team VMP are dropping fresh new selections to their stock every single week. Do not miss out.
Word to the wise, while the store is open to the public, most of the more covet-worthy stock is only available to subscribers. Members are privy to reduced “Members Pricing” as well, so joining the club definitely has its rewards. If you’re peckish about relinquishing control of your record collection to complete strangers, know that VMP’s Swaps Program is in full effect. That means you can flip any VMP pick you’re not interested in for a past featured album from any track (including Essentials, Country, Classics, and Rap/Hip Hop). My advice? Don’t overthink it. Do your turntable a favor and sign up today.
What’s on tap for March? VMP is taking back to the Greenwich Village folk era with a shiny new pressing of Dave Van Ronk’s Folksinger. Here’s a look.
For The Love Of Vinyl, Please DO NOT BEND
When people speak of the Greenwich Village folk scene of the 1960s, Bob Dylan is typically the first name that comes up. And well it should be, as few artists of the era so fully embodied what the scene eventually became. And it’s safe to say none had as such meteoric success once they broke free from the folky pack.
Truth is, even after Dylan a lot of folks might reel off a few more iconic names before they got around to mentioning Dave Van Ronk. While it’s understandable given the success some of his contemporaries experienced, it’s also a bit of a travesty because Van Ronk had been making the scene in Greenwich for years prior to Dylan’s breakthrough. So well-regarded was Van Ronk by his Village peers, he’d earned the nickname “The Mayor of MacDougal Street.” And yes, he even showed young Bobby D. the ropes when the would-be folk star came to town.
You may not realize it, but Dave Van Ronk even recorded and released three lauded albums of blues-tinged folk music before Dylan managed to put out his first. The third of those albums was 1962’s Folksinger. While the album lacked the uncanny wordplay, and “of the moment” appeal as Dylan’s early tomes, a case could easily be made that Folksinger was one of the most important albums of the era. And it may well be Van Ronk’s most egregiously overlooked work.
Now regarding the wordplay, comparisons to Dylan aren’t entirely fair, because Van Ronk didn’t really write a lot of songs, largely preferring to record re-arranged versions of traditional folk numbers. And as for the “of the moment” appeal, well, it’s worthing noting few artists in the history of music have ever been quite as on the pulse of a generation as Bob Dylan was in the early ’60s.
What Dave Van Ronk may have lacked in style and timeliness, he more than made up for in guts, and unbridled passion. That passion is well on display in the 13 tracks that form Folksinger, an album that opens with a legit showstopper in “He Was A Friend of Mine,” and includes laid-bare versions of staples like “Poor Lazarus,” “Stackalee,” “Cocaine Blue,” “Fixin To Die,” and “Hang Me, Oh Hang Me,” among others.
I realize that’s essentially half the album I just mentioned. While those songs are undeniable standouts on Folksinger, they’re surrounded a collection bluesy folk tunes so soulfully rendered, and passionately performed it’s impossible not to get swept away in the album’s vibe. Timeless as that vibe may strive to be, Folksinger is an album very much of the Greenwich folk era. It is, in fact, one of the defining albums of the day. And that’s true whether you’ve heard the name Dave Van Ronk before or not.
Thankfully, more people know Van Ronk’s name, and back catalogue than ever these days, thanks in no small part to the Coen Brothers essentially fictionalizing his life in their 2013 masterpiece Inside Llewyn Davis. And with any luck, his legacy will continue to grow with VMP’s immaculate re-release of Folksinger.
Look, the folk scene of the early ’60s was pretty much all about an artist stepping on a stage and singing their hearts out with little backing, and no amplification. So this stunning shot of Van Ronk wailing away on the streets of New York is pretty damn on point.
There’s some important info on the back of the sleeve there too, btw.
And that includes the Vinyl Me, Please Classics qualifying foil stamp.
As for its VMP Classics cred, well, the hype sticker says all you need to know about this AAA cut beauty.
If you’re curious about where Folksinger lands in the vaunted Vinyl Me, Please Classics vault, you’ll find its catalogue number on the OBI-strip. And you can find an excerpt from the listening companion on the flip side of that strip.
As for the booklet itself, it’s an easy-reading, Folksinger-focused deep dive into the work of Dave Van Ronk from the singer’s former pupil, and longtime friend Elijah Wald (who also co-wrote the man’s memoir).
Like every Classics pressing before it, Folksinger is a glossy black beauty.
And nothing will ever look, or sound better on your deck than black.
How’s it sound? Like you got lost MacDougal Street in the early ’60s, stepped into the first cafe you found to ask for directions, and found yourself listening to one of the most distinctive musicians of the entire Greenwich Village folk era.
Give VMP a Spin
Since changing their slogan over to “Lost Founds Sound” a while back, the team at Vinyl Me, Please have gotten some understandable blowback … primarily because the Essentials Track (which is their primary subscription base) hardly features rare, or hard to find releases these days. But anyone looking at the Classics track can tell you it’s full of such sonic treasures. Dave Van Ronk’s Folksinger is just such an overlooked gem. And it’s further proof that anyone seeking a legit adventure with their VMP subscription should hit up the Classics track today. Happy spinning, kids.
A big THANK YOU to our friends at Vinyl Me, Please for sponsoring this subscription. Don’t forget to check out the Vinyl Me, Please website and sign up to get some choice wax delivered right to your door each and every month! Be sure to check back next month to see what vinyl treasure Team VMP sends our way!