I've been slowly going through a 600 LP collection I acquired last week, separating the wheat from the chaff, or in this case, the Townes Van Zandt records from the Randy Travis records and I've become obsessed with one particular record called, "Lonesome Road Blues" by "Guitar Frank" Hovington.
According to the liner notes on the back cover, he was "seen playing on a roadside porch by John Fahey, when he was on a record-collecting trip in Delaware." Another story, claims "Guitar Frank" refused to leave his home of Felton, Delaware, fearing he would lose his welfare checks. The songs in this album, released by Rounder in 1979 after an initial release on the U.K. Flyright label, were recorded in his home, over two days in July of 1975.
There are many blues men, from the blind to the sleepy, who have recorded sides that have been documented by great lovers of roots music like archivists Chris Strachwitz of Arhoolie Records and Alan Lomax. But there is something about Hovington's playing that struck me as special.
I first felt this way about the Texas bluesman, Mance Lipscomb, after seeing Les Blank's 1971 documentary, "A Well Spent Life." Watching Lipscomb's long fingers on his battered hands, as he owned his acoustic guitar, changed the way I listened to country blues, which I'll admit, was casually. Pick a record by anyone, Mississippi John Hurt, Reverend Gary Davis or Big Bill Broonzy and I'd dig it, even if I couldn't quite tell who I was hearing. But once I saw Mance Lipscomb moving and strumming and singing, I knew each artist had something different to offer, and right now, after a long obsession with Mance, my obsession is Frank Hovington.