Joseph Spence – Living on the Hallelujah Side
Joseph Spence’s music is a style unto itself. Working with songs learned from hymnals, from the radio and from local tradition in his native Bahamas, Spence developed an astounding guitar style with wild, syncopated rhythms and a unique but sophisticated sense of harmony, while he casually growled out excerpts of lyrics. Spence was a major influence on Ry Cooder. These are ’70s recordings made near his home in Nassau and in concert in the U.S.
Review by Ron Wynn
Bahamian guitarist/vocalist Joseph Spence’s humming, flailing, sensational singing and playing combined secular flair and spiritual fervor in a manner close to that of the brilliant Blind Willie Johnson and Rev. Gary Davis. This set of 1970s performances, reissued on CD, included evocative renditions of “A Closer Walk with Thee,” “More and More with Jesus,” and “When the Saints Go Marching In,” plus equally arresting versions of “Irene Goodnight” and the holiday ditty “Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town.” Spence was incapable of self-indulgence or fakery; his lines, phrasing, riffs, and solos are enchanting, while his vocal effects and accompaniment often come close to surpassing his playing. This was simply magical material, the kind that comes only from a genuine original.
A customer said:
It’s almost impossible for me not to smile while listening to this wonderful record. There are many times in fact, when I have laughed with joy and amazement at the pure, unadulterated music-making of this amazing man. ‘Neighbor Gone Home’ and ‘I’ll Be A Friend To Jesus’ are among my favourites here, with the latter in particular having me in hysterics when Joseph pulls up abruptly at the high notes, leaving his friend Blooming Rosalie Roberts to carry the tune. All through the album Joseph’s half-sung, half-grunted, half-mumblescatted vocals (a new term that fits, I think!) are just amazing and delightful. Trust me, you have never heard ANYTHING like the singing of Joseph Spence! It is absolutely outrageous!
For the uninitiated, Joseph Spence played guitar exclusively in something called ‘Dropped D’ tuning, and his beautiful, syncopated Calypso fingerstyle is inimitably great. He was a gem of a musician, and a true original. Joseph was not as young as he used to be by this time, but don’t let that deter you. This is a wonderful album. Check out “More and More With Jesus”, “I’ll Overcome Someday”, or “Where Shall I Go” for some wonderful Joseph Spence guitar performances.
This album is a complete blast of infectious, wonderful, guitar-and-voice simplicity. There’s some kind of joy and delight that just comes out in Joseph Spence’s music. It’s unique, and something hard to explain; you just have to hear him. And you MUST hear him! The Book of Proverbs says that “A merry heart does good like a medicine.” With this in mind I have no hesitation in recommending to everyone a good listen to Mr. Joseph Spence. His music and his spirit will do you a power of good. Absolutely unmissable!
1. I’ll Overcome Some Day 2:06
2. A Closer Walk With Thee 3:00
3. Where Shall I Go 3:20
4. I’ll Be A Friend to Jesus 2:42
5. More And More With Jesus 4:08
6. Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town 2:58
7. On My Way To Heaven 2:15
8. Neighbor Gone Home 2:05
9. Jesus On The Mainline 3:58
10. Living On The Hallelujah Side 2:26
11. When The Saints Go Marching In 2:57
12. Irene Goodnight 3:06
keep on the sunny side.
mp3 vbr ~250kbps | front, back