For you guitarists out there- especially acoustic blues/based music-heads, most of you by now recognize the impact of Robert Johnson. You may well understand the enormous impression Blind Willie Johnson has made. You may even be hip to Rev. Gary Davis.
All of these were people I heard on local underground radio when in my mid-teen years studying blues and all sorts of cool, earthy music.
It was not until many years later in discovering (by way of Cornerstone Festival) a gifted acoustic guitarist/singer/songwriter who also covers various musicians from various styles that I heard of Joseph Spence. Brooks Williams played at least a couple sets at C’stone.
Brooks covered one of Joseph’s songs- “Happy All the Time” which I eventually
learned and occasionally play in solo sets.
As I dug into J.S. I found cool lyrics, a guitar style similar but unique from Gary Davis approach which includes “bass” lines on the bottom strings while also chording as well as little solo licks and part-chords tossed in on top of all this with an amazing sense of solid, foot-stomping rhythm.
Joseph, being a Bahamian man had learned a great many older English hymns but meshed Anglican and other tunes with a sense of blues styling (and a couple others…) along with a funny little guttural singing along with himself as he played, sometimes breaking into singing also.
Like Blind Willie (who I totally dig but never thought his vocal style the greatest… though markedly different) on slide and dobro, Joseph on straight acoustic guitar using the drop D tuning is simply stunning.
Search out the remarkable Joseph Spence via YouTube!
And for starters, here’s some background on him and some of his kin:
Enjoy, and thanks for stopping by! -Glenn