Dave Van Ronk was a close friend, mentor, and kind of a second father to me–aside from guitar, he taught me about literature, history, politics, food, jazz, the ins and outs of New York, and the vagaries of the music business. When I was studying with him in 1976-77, he had recently released Sunday Street, his first solo album since the 1960s, and one of his best. The title song was his own composition–he was always trying to come up with new approaches to old blues styles, and this is a perfect example: the humor and language are a mix of his modern sensibility and the kind of street lingo he enjoyed in songs and books from earlier eras, in keeping with the tastes of a man who named his rock band the Hudson Dusters after one of the Irish street gangs in Herbert Asbury’s Gangs of New York. For example, to be in tap city is an extension of “tapping out,” or going broke at poker.
The guitar part is in dropped-D tuning, Dave’s favorite, which he probably used more than any other player aside from Joseph Spence–a kinship that gives me even more pleasure than it gave him.