Ain’t You Sorry (Mance Lipscomb)

This is a favorite from Mance Lipscomb which I learned in Antwerp after that winter fronting a trio in Sevilla. Within the first week or so of getting back to Belgium I got together with a very nice woman named Miet and over the next month or so gradually moved from the third floor of Vera’s building in the red light district to Miet’s apartment on the Vogelmarkt. That became my European base for the next couple of years and was a good place for a busker to be living, a block from the cafe terraces in front of the Rubens house (I never liked his painting, never went in, but the terraces were great for busking and there was a good used bookstore next door) and an easy walk to the cafes by the central station in one direction and the cafes near the Groenplaats in the other.

As noted in previous posts, the residency in Sevilla had gotten me back into country blues, and there were a few people in Antwerp who were good fingerpickers and knew that repertoire. The first I’d met back in the 1970s: a guy named Marc Chaltin who played Gary Davis style with just his thumb and middle finger, a fingerpicker from Liverpool named Les Clague, who killed me with his Blind Blake stuff, and Leo Wijnkamp, one of the great Dutch ragtime players. Now I met a younger player, Dirk Poel, who as I recall had studied flamenco with the Flemish guitarist and songwriter Wannes van de Velde.

I only got together with Dirk a couple of times, but he turned me on to this song: my memory is that he was trying to figure out how to play it, asked me on his first visit, and I listened and figured it out, then showed it to him on his second — but it may be that he had already figured it out and showed it to me. Either way, I owe him because it’s a great guitar part and made me go back and pay more attention to Lipscomb’s playing, and singing, and song selection.

I had not fully appreciated Lipscomb’s music, because it was so relaxed and understated. I was charmed by his versions of old pop songs and had learned his arrangement of “Shine On, Harvest Moon,” but had never paid much attention to his blues — which was stupid, because he was both a very quirky and a very tasteful musician. This song is a good example, with its unusual bassline kicking the rhythm along. I mostly do different verses than he recorded and play different breaks, but the basic chart is his and started me on a Mance kick that lasted through the next few years.

As for Dirk, he’s still going strong, playing with my old friend and sometime partner Ludo Beckers — who also used to play harmonica with Les back in the 1970s. Anyway, they’re both still playing great — and Ludo sent me some corrections to an earlier version of this post — and here’s a video from a show in November or them doing a favorite from Bo Carter: