Wednesday, November 14, 2018

"Guitar" Frank, A New Obsession

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.


whattawino said...

These tunes make me feel like I'm sittin' on the porch with Frank, listening and maybe sippin' a little somethin'..... Thanks for the turn on, Sal.

Michael Giltz said...

Sweet stuff; has the same graceful charm of Mississippi John Hurt to my untutored ears. Sadly, not on Spotify.
P.S. I wish there was an easy way to check what is streaming on Apple Music when you're not a subscriber. Makes it very hard to compare the two services.

philo said...

There's a YouTube channel called Folk Seattle that has posted many of these forgotten artists.
These were recorded @ '69 or '70.
Here is one of my favorites. It's Mance Lipscomb playing with a bandaged ring finger. At about the 10 min mark, he takes out his pocket knife to use it for a slide on his acoustic guitar. It's just mesmerizing.

heartsofstone said...

Great music. Great backstory on him as well. He hated to travel so stayed close to home. Would love to hear the whole record.

M_Sharp said...

Never heard of him before this, he sounds like the real deal. Thanks!

kodak ghost said...

This is my type of music. Medicine shows, hokum, piedmont blues and all the rest. Once you start really listening, then there is a rabbit hole with no end. If you want more you might be interested in this site. Weenie Campbell