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Any old limb that you hang me on will be a home-sweet-home for me - Bill Chitwood & His Georgia Mountaineers, Fourth Of July At The Country Fair (1927)

Author Topic: Joseph Spence  (Read 6592 times)

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Offline ryan

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Joseph Spence
« on: January 17, 2005, 11:59:52 PM »
I just ordered an artist by the name of Joseph Spence.  I read he was discovered by Sam Charters on one of his ethno-musical travels to the bahamas.  I have never heard him before but he caught my eye and he looks like he has done alot of traditional numbers, and reviews have stated his style was similar to the country blues.  do any of you like him?  suggestions on albums?

Offline a2tom

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Re: joseph spence?
« Reply #1 on: January 18, 2005, 05:29:47 AM »
I simply love Jopeph Spence.? My wife simply hates him.? But that has to do more with his proclivity toward tuning problems (I'd be interested to hear what other Weenies think about whether this was intentional or what...) and his decidedly unusual way of singing (or not singing).? Regardless, Spence has an incredibly warm and inviting style, both on the guitar and in his personality which exudes from every song.

As for similarity to country blues, there is certainly some (he is a fingerpicker after all), but most of his music isn't what I'd call "in the style".? He does many religious numbers, which creates some level of a link as well.? As I understand it, Spence played (almost?) exclusively in dropped D.

As for recordings, I have one called Bahamian Guitarist, from Arhoolie.? Others have said the Folkways recordings is a must have, but I've never picked that up (too many other artists to buy to be reproducing yet).

As for playing it, I find Spence very difficult to capture soundwise.? In many places the notes aren't really that hard, but he is stylistically out there in the way beyond.? I can fake my way through Mary Ann and Happy Meeting, but I don't really sound anything like Spence.? My wife says that 'cause you can understand the words...

tom
« Last Edit: April 18, 2005, 05:11:07 AM by Johnm »

Offline BlindSockeyeSalmon

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    • Sugar in the Gourd: Old-Time, All the Time
Re: joseph spence?
« Reply #2 on: January 18, 2005, 06:32:07 AM »
I love Joseph Spence. Here's my chance to ask a somewhat related question.

I just heard a Ghanaian highlife guitarist named King Onyina for the first time, and my first thought was to notice how much his playing reminded me of Joseph Spence.

Take a listen to the first track here and see if you don't agree:

http://www.sternsmusic.com/disk_info.php?id=PAMAG702

Any other fans of King Onyina or highlife music here? I'm surprised after listening to him & reading about him that his name is not better known.

John
http://sugarinthegourd.com
Old-Time, All the Time

Offline ryan

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Re: joseph spence?
« Reply #3 on: January 18, 2005, 01:36:28 PM »
hey guys thanks for the reply.  the one I ordered is on rounder so i'll let you know my opinion when I get it. AMG gave it 41/2 stars, not that there opinion goes very far with me.  I think I'll pick up the one you also mentioned a2tom and I have a feeling my fiance will be in a similar mindset as your wife.
happy new year,
ryan 

Offline BlindLemonMeringue

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  • Howdy!
Re: joseph spence?
« Reply #4 on: January 18, 2005, 01:39:34 PM »
Hello, yes you are correct, that guy does sound very much like Spence.

I,m working on the Spence tune "Great Dreams fron Heaven". Ive got a very basic version down but now need to add some variations into it and due to my lack of musical knowledge I,m stuck. Anybody help with licks/runs which can be done over this tune, and any other help or advice would be appreciated

regards

Blind Lemon Meringue (yes another blind guy)

Offline frankie

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Re: joseph spence?
« Reply #5 on: January 18, 2005, 01:50:14 PM »
Others have said the Folkways recordings is a must have

I have most of Spence's recordings that have been released on CD.  The best one, hands-down, without any hesitation, reservation or qualifier is the CD of his 1958 recordings.  There's something to be enjoyed in all of his recordings, but that first one is just completely unbelievable - the guy was on fire!

Offline a2tom

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Re: joseph spence?
« Reply #6 on: January 18, 2005, 02:43:48 PM »
The best one, hands-down, without any hesitation, reservation or qualifier is the CD of his 1958 recordings. There's something to be enjoyed in all of his recordings, but that first one is just completely unbelievable - the guy was on fire!

So you like that one then?? ?:)? OK, I guess I'll have to buy it.? You're not the first person I've heard say this.

tom
« Last Edit: April 18, 2005, 05:12:12 AM by Johnm »

Offline Peter McCracken

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Re: joseph spence?
« Reply #7 on: January 20, 2005, 04:14:36 PM »
I agree with Frank re. the first recordings. Unbelievably cool and inventive. John Miller pointed out to me that he plays tunes for 6 or 7 minutes, different each time through.

Interestingly, there's a man named Israel Forbes, a Bahamian, who learned from and plays like Spence. He's pretty old now, but he can still get it. Phil Wiggins worked on inviting him to the blues week this year, but he's currently not well. Maybe next year.

Peter

Merle

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Re: joseph spence?
« Reply #8 on: January 23, 2005, 02:30:56 PM »
Spence is awesome.

For comparison, you ought to hear Ry Cooder's in-tune, cleaned-up versions of Spence's arrangements. On his "Into the Purple Valley" album (1972) he covers "Great Dream from Heaven. On his "Jazz" album (1978) he does "Happy Meeting in Glory", "We Shall be Happy" and "Face to Face That I Shall Meet Him".

The John Stropes' book "20th Century Masters of Fingerstyle Guitar" transcribed Spence's "Glory Glory" and Cooder's arrangement of Spence's "Great Dream From Heaven". The book is out of print, but can be found online sometimes at eBay or MX Bookfinder. Years ago I recall seeing a full book of transcriptions, maybe published by Mel Bay.

I have a Spence album where he even gives his unique treatment to "Santa Clause is Coming to Town" and "Sloop John B". Wild.

Merle

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Re: joseph spence?
« Reply #9 on: January 25, 2005, 03:54:56 AM »
This thread has got me pulling  out all my old Spence stuff.

Those of you who have actually heard him will appreciate the following "imitation" I found on the web somewhere:

"be a friend...doodle doo hack cough... to Jesus...a-hack! doodle doo arrrr mumble a-hey".

To which I can only add: be sure your guitar is slightly out of tune.

Smokin Bill

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Re: joseph spence?
« Reply #10 on: February 02, 2005, 08:28:38 AM »
I love Spence's guitar playing, but his vocal stylings are so bizarre they make it difficult for me to enjoy listening to his recordings. Anybody know of any covers of his pieces by people who can sing without setting off the neighborhood cats? Or any intrumental versions? I recently came across a Jim Henry and Brooks Williams CD, "Ring Some Changes," that includes a great version of "On the Rolling Sea."

Bill

Offline Johnm

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Re: joseph spence?
« Reply #11 on: February 02, 2005, 05:31:08 PM »
You can look for covers of Joseph Spence, Bill, but in my opinion what you end up with sacrifices way, way too much, however nice the renditions may be, when compared with Spence's own renditions.  He had a tremendous advantage when it came to playing like Joseph Spence.  He was a kind of bottomless pit of invention and ideas, especially on the Folkways recordings.  Even the best of the covers generally just reproduce a couple of passes of what he did.
All best,
Johnm

Smokin Bill

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Re: joseph spence?
« Reply #12 on: February 02, 2005, 10:37:57 PM »
Hmm... both of the J. Spence discs I have are Rounder CDs. Perhaps I'll have to locate the Folkways discs and give the guy another chance.

Or are the Rounder CDs just reissues of the Folkways?

Offline Johnm

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Re: joseph spence?
« Reply #13 on: February 02, 2005, 10:51:54 PM »
I believe the Spence Folkways recordings have been released on Smithsonian/Folkways, Bill.  If you have not heard them, you should definitely seek them out, because as Frank and Peter McCracken have mentioned earlier in this thread they are perfectly amazing.  Any number of tunes on there, "Jump In the Line", "Brownskin Girl", "Coming In On A Wing And A Prayer", et al, are worth the price of admission by themselves.
All best,
Johnm

Merle

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Re: joseph spence?
« Reply #14 on: February 04, 2005, 10:35:24 AM »
Smokin Bill:

See my earlier posts for info on cover versions by others (Ry Cooder).

Also, Tom Ball covered "There'll Be a Happy Meeting" on his Guitar Music CD (Kicking Mule). And John Renbourn does some covers as well.

---Merle

 


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