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Joseph Spence

Related threads:
Lyr Req: Great Dream from Heaven (Joseph Spence) (20)
Lyr Req: Out on the Rolling Sea (Joseph Spence) (37)
Joseph Spence songbook (4)


john c 09 Sep 00 - 02:01 AM
Brendy 09 Sep 00 - 02:52 AM
GUEST,Stefan Wirz 09 Sep 00 - 03:39 AM
Liz the Squeak 09 Sep 00 - 05:26 AM
Frankee 09 Sep 00 - 06:30 AM
dwditty 09 Sep 00 - 06:36 AM
john c 09 Sep 00 - 01:53 PM
Art Thieme 09 Sep 00 - 07:55 PM
Rick Fielding 09 Sep 00 - 09:02 PM
Susanne (skw) 09 Sep 00 - 09:20 PM
Guy Wolff 10 Sep 00 - 12:27 AM
Barbara 10 Sep 00 - 03:19 AM
Brian Hoskin 10 Sep 00 - 08:26 AM
Art Thieme 10 Sep 00 - 02:11 PM
GUEST,Jim Dixon 10 Sep 00 - 05:22 PM
dwditty 10 Sep 00 - 05:45 PM
Frankee 10 Sep 00 - 10:51 PM
Frankee 11 Sep 00 - 05:10 PM
little john cameron 19 Jul 02 - 11:32 PM
john c 20 Jul 02 - 02:40 AM
Stefan Wirz 26 Jul 02 - 04:14 PM
dick greenhaus 27 Jul 02 - 01:34 PM
GUEST,Ewan McVicar 28 Jul 02 - 10:40 AM
greg stephens 28 Jul 02 - 11:27 AM
GUEST,Al 28 Jul 02 - 12:17 PM
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Subject: Joseph Spence
From: john c
Date: 09 Sep 00 - 02:01 AM

Ive just got hold a cd called "The Real Bahamas" and its all but blown me away! Does anybody have any information about the most amazing guitarist Ive heard for ages, Joseph Spence? Biography, recommended recordings, info on his tunings, etc - everything gratefully recieved!
All the best,
John


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Subject: RE: Joseph Spence
From: Brendy
Date: 09 Sep 00 - 02:52 AM

I came across this: ~ Click Here! ~

B.


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Subject: RE: Joseph Spence
From: GUEST,Stefan Wirz
Date: 09 Sep 00 - 03:39 AM

there's also this site


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Subject: RE: Joseph Spence
From: Liz the Squeak
Date: 09 Sep 00 - 05:26 AM

He isn't realted to Sir Patrick Spense is he? *BG*


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Subject: RE: Joseph Spence
From: Frankee
Date: 09 Sep 00 - 06:30 AM

Spence is one of my favorites. I've been trying to track down a source for lyrics of the songs he performed for sometime now as his own singing is pretty much undecipherable. Let me know if you find anything John and at some point you might want to check out what I think are his best recordings "Bahaman Folk Guitar Joseph Spence" on Folkways. These are field recordings done by Sam Charters and Mel Bay has a combination CD (expanded from the original vinyl)/ tab folio available.

Frankie


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Subject: RE: Joseph Spence
From: dwditty
Date: 09 Sep 00 - 06:36 AM

You have found the key to guitar heaven. In my mind, the spaces between the notes represent Spence's true genius. Check out Living on the Hallelujah Side. The Complete 1958 Folkways Recordings is also great (I believe Sam Charters ir responsible. Thank you, Sam), and here is a special treat. Mel Bay has a book of transcriptions under this same title. How anyone could tab Joseph Spence is completely beyond me. I used to play with a friend, and we always played Great Dream From Heaven. Only difference was we were using two guitars while Joseph was only using one!.

dw


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Subject: RE: Joseph Spence
From: john c
Date: 09 Sep 00 - 01:53 PM

Ahhhh.....you guys are great!
Thanx.
Any more to come????????
J.


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Subject: RE: Joseph Spence
From: Art Thieme
Date: 09 Sep 00 - 07:55 PM

The Arhoolie LP was recoded better than the Folkways material which was, after all, recordings made in the field on Andros island with less than state of the art equipment.

On CD:

Joseph Spence--The Complete Folkways Recordings--1958 --- CD SF 40066

Another CD I'm pretty certain you would enjoy even though Joseoh Spence is NOT on it is:

Deep River Of Song--Bahamas--1935--Chanteys And Anthems from Andros and Cat Islands (the Alan Lomax collection) --- Rounder11661 1822-2 -- These, the earliest field recordings ever made in the Bahamas, were recorded by Lomax and Mary Elizabeth Barnicle.

Art Thieme


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Subject: RE: Joseph Spence
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 09 Sep 00 - 09:02 PM

A truly innovative guitarist....and the weirdest singer you'll ever hear!

Gotta drop your bass E down to D, and then the fun begins. At first I thought that every Bahamian played like that, but over the last 30 years haven't heard anyone similar (other than those who've learned from him.

Rick


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Subject: RE: Joseph Spence
From: Susanne (skw)
Date: 09 Sep 00 - 09:20 PM

The following song about Joseph Spence is by Ralph McTell. It doesn't seem to be in the DT, and I couldn't get the SuperSearch to work, so I hope this isn't duplicationg.

THE HANDS OF JOSEPH
(Ralph McTell)

Chorus:
He would sing about joy, sing about pain
That the people wished they had
How they heard the voice of Jesus
When the rolling sea got mad
He's a boat in the harbour, he's safe in that love
You know some day you'll be sailing above

When they looked at Joseph's hands
They said, They're the hands of a carpenter
They're big and they're powerful and they're strong
They're the hands that should work in wood
And they're the hands that should work a long day
Joseph he did all those things
But he also learned how to play

When they looked at Joseph's hands
They said, They're the hands of a stonemason
They're big and they're powerful and they're strong
They're the hands that should work with stone
And they're the hands that should work a long day
Joseph he did all those things
But he also learned how to play

When they looked at Joseph's hands
They said, They're the hands of a fisherman
The musician and the mason-carpenter
And he's happy all the time
He's still working every day
And those old hands of Joseph
Oh how they can play

[1991:] Dedicated to Joseph Spence. Apart from being a wonderful guitar player he was also a carpenter, a stonemason, and a fisherman. Remarkably, when he died a couple of years ago he still had all the fingers on both hands. (Ralph McTell, intro Tonder Festival)

[1991:] First 'discovered' around 1958 [and died in 1984,] the music business didn't really catch Joseph Spence, nor did the fame and fortune associated with it, indeed he was a night watchman at a local primary school up until 1980, when he took sick. The choice of fame or an ordinary existence seems to have been one that he obviously made himself, prefering [sic!] his home and family to the wider world. This album [...] is almost exclusively made up of religious material, but is performed with so much joyful spirit it's hard not to be affected by it. Ry Cooder described Spence's guitar style as 'physical and syncopated' which sums it up nicely. He simultaneously appears to play the lead and bass on guitar and then growls a melody. (Sean McGhee, review Joseph Spence, 'Glory', Rock 'n' Reel 11)


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Subject: RE: Joseph Spence
From: Guy Wolff
Date: 10 Sep 00 - 12:27 AM

THanks everyone, I gotta keep this thread.. I love Spences playing..Rick isint alot of JS"S work in g tuning????I'll have to go back and listen. I think the things Rye Cooder was inspired by were in G tuning .. ???????? All the best Guy


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Subject: RE: Joseph Spence
From: Barbara
Date: 10 Sep 00 - 03:19 AM

And for all you folks that think you've never run across any of his music, the best known of his (and the Pindar family) is "And I Bid You Goodnight", which has traveled a llloooooonnnnngggg way from its Bahamian roots.
Amazing music, amazing musician.
Blessings,
Barbara


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Subject: RE: Joseph Spence
From: Brian Hoskin
Date: 10 Sep 00 - 08:26 AM

There was an interesting article on the legacy of Joseph Spence in Folk Roots (June 1998 No. 180).


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Subject: RE: Joseph Spence
From: Art Thieme
Date: 10 Sep 00 - 02:11 PM

The Arhoolie album (LP only I think--so far) was fairly recent compared to the 1935 Lomax recordings. It was a concert in Berkeley, California if I remember right. They actually brought Spence in for a concert in the U.S. Leaves me wondering if he did any other dates on that trip---a tour of some kind---and whether or not those concerts/gigs were recorded.

There is an "out-of-tune" aspect to some of Joseph's playing that makes him, like great Scotch, an acquired taste. His singing too---takes a while to become positively endearing--but it truly does do that very thing. But after that---you love the smell of the burnt pete every time you pour a frsh shot or two into your glass.

I'm wondering if anyone else thinks Joseph actually had his guitar tuned slacker than concert pitch. A full note or two lower. This would make consistent notation accuracy hard to establish all through a particular song.

Wat-d'-ya-think?

Art Thieme


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Subject: RE: Joseph Spence
From: GUEST,Jim Dixon
Date: 10 Sep 00 - 05:22 PM

I have a CD called "Out On The Rolling Sea: A Tribute to the Music of Joseph Spence & the Pinder Family -- The Fourth Hokey Pokey Charity Collection," various artists, Green Linnet Records, GLCD 3095, 1994.

Spence himself doesn't appear on the album. Unfortunately the liner notes usually don't identify a writer/composer. Obviously, Spence didn't write all of them. Some cuts seem to be there only because the artist was influenced by Spence's guitar style. Here's the list of cuts, with the names of the performers: (Instrumentals are marked with an asterisk.)

1. On the Rolling Sea When Jesus Speak to Me - Van Dyke Parks, keyboard & vocal.
2. Kneelin' Down Inside the Gate - Jody Stecher, Kate Brislin & Larry Hanks, a capella vocals.
3. Afindrafindrao* - David Lindley, bouzouki.
4. Sloop John B. - Ron Kavana.
5. Blow Wind Blow - Taj Mahal, guitar & vocal.
6. Tsiaro - Tarika Sammy.
7. People Get Ready* - David Grisman, mandolin & Marc Silber, guitar.
8. Although the Lord Be High Above - Victoria Williams.
9. Tsy Fotoana Mahafinarita Ve Izao? (Won't That Be a Happy Time?)*/ I Ain't Got Long On This Island* - Rossy, Paul & Pana.
10. The Crow - Wavy Gravy, vocals; Henry Kaiser, bass guitar; & Steve Kimock, guitar.
11. Great Dreams from Heaven* - Michael Chapman, electric guitar.
12. A Chilling Tale: Harcourt Drowned / Troublesome Water - 3 Mustaphas 3.
13. Don't Let Nobody Burn Down Burma Road* - Tom Constanten, keyboards.
14. Stealin' - Ralph McTell, guitar & vocal.
15. Carmen Goes to Bimini* - Mitch Greenhill & Wayne Smith, guitars.
16. Good Morning Mr. Walker / Wait Till Tomorrow - Niles Hokkanen et al.
17. Goodnight Irene - Japheth Dean, guitar.
18. Out on the Rolling Sea When Jesus Speak to Me - Jim Dickinson, vocals, et al.
19. I Bid You Goodnight - Blue Murder, a capella vocals.

It's a good album, but IMHO there is one cut that alone was worth the purchase price (I bought the CD used) is #19: "I Bid You Goodnight." (Blue Murder, in case you didn't know, is Martin Carthy, Eliza Carthy, the Watersons, and 3 other guys!) The words are in DT, but the words alone don't do justice to the arrangement. It's performed in a contrapuntal style, one line overlapping another. (If you don't know what that sounds like, think of the Red Clay Ramblers singing "Daniel Prayed.")

Incidentally, I have a correction for DT: The line given as "Jesus and Moses shall follow me on" should be "Goodness and mercy shall follow me on."

The liner notes identify Joseph Spence (1910-1984) and Edith Pinder (1909-1980), and give the following discography:

The Complete Folkways Recordings - Smithsonian/Folkways 40066
Happy All the Time - Hannibal HNCD 4419.
The Real Bahamas - Electra/Nonsuch 9 79300.2.
Bahamian Guitarist - Arhoolie 394.
Living on the Hallelujah Side - Rounder 2121.
Glory - Rounder 2096.
The Spring of Sixty-five - Rounder 2110.


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Subject: RE: Joseph Spence
From: dwditty
Date: 10 Sep 00 - 05:45 PM

Art, it has always been my theory that Joseph kept his guitar out of tune and certainly not in concert 440 on purpose - a kind of musical joke for the listener, almost like he was saying, "Look how good I can make this cheap guitar sound even when it isn't in tune." His music is so heartfelt and whimsical at the same time, and, yes, his singing is definitely part of it even though it is a pain in the ass to listen to at first.

The Rolling Sea CD Jim Dixon mentioned has some great cuts on it. Others seem like they were trying to adopt Joseph's style of making the music "hard to hear." I guess I better give them a few more listens. Out of all the cuts, I always thought the otherwise unrecorded Japheth Dean captured Joseph's style the best.


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Subject: RE: Joseph Spence
From: Frankee
Date: 10 Sep 00 - 10:51 PM

I'm going to fish out an article I've got somewhere by Jody Stecher on Spence. I seem to remember him saying (or someone quoted in the article) as saying that he did tune down a bit which accounted for that rumbling, out of tune sound and he also kept his 3rd string either sharp or flat in relation to the other strings.
#3 by David Lindley and #19 by Blue Murder (Carthy , Waterson, et al) on the Rolling Sea CD really floor me.

Frankie


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Subject: RE: Joseph Spence
From: Frankee
Date: 11 Sep 00 - 05:10 PM

This from "Harp of Glory" an article which appeared in Acoustic Guitar #22 Jan./ Feb. 1994 by Jody Stecher, a very fine musician in his own right, who met Spence in 1965:

"He tuned his guitar at standard pitch or lower, often a whole tone down. When playing in D, he lowered the sixth a whole step, to an octave below the fourth string. Spence employed a rather wide gap between the treble and bass voices of his instrument. I can approximate this sound by increasing the gap between my fouth and third strings to an uncomfortably wide fourth interval and then tuning the remaining two high strings to play perfectly in tune with the now slightly sharp G. It sounds a lot like Spence and it's very hard to get back into normal tuning- the whole guitar goes bonkers . This is a dangerous tuning: don't try it at home."

Frankie


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Subject: Joseph Spence
From: little john cameron
Date: 19 Jul 02 - 11:32 PM

Not my style,however here you go.Full downloads.clicky


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Subject: RE: Joseph Spence
From: john c
Date: 20 Jul 02 - 02:40 AM

Hey, thats a good one. Thanks!
big john c


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Subject: RE: Joseph Spence
From: Stefan Wirz
Date: 26 Jul 02 - 04:14 PM

Nothing *really* new to most of you folks here, I think - but anyhow: Just added a Joseph Spence discography to my site Stefan


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Subject: RE: Joseph Spence
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 27 Jul 02 - 01:34 PM

Just for completeness: the "three other guys" in Blue Murder are Coope, Boyes and Simpson--possibly the best of the a capella groups working.


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Subject: RE: Joseph Spence
From: GUEST,Ewan McVicar
Date: 28 Jul 02 - 10:40 AM

My all time favourite guitar player.
I recall that on an LP cover [the Arhoolie one] it tells how Spence would work to get that tuning he wanted. I have always thought it perhaps related to the different scales and intervals one gets in West Africa - on the old kora recordings for example. I can't remember any suggestion he ever played other than in dropped D.


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Subject: RE: Joseph Spence
From: greg stephens
Date: 28 Jul 02 - 11:27 AM

The technique of tuning youself slightly sharp of other people you're playing with is a well-established dastardly trick (I've done it myself). It definitely makes your contribution to the overall sound a little brighter and more upfront. I feel Joseph Spense was doing this to himself: certainly those with keener ears than me suggest that he was entirely consistent with his tuning, and the basis of it was to tune the top three(melody) strings in with each other, but fractionally sharp of the bass strings. Maybe he just had a guitar that was a little unresponsive in the treble when he was defining his style. This tuning makes the tune sing out a bit more, at the expense of sounding a bit jangly. And as he confined his playing to one key and one tuning, he could control things OK.It would have sounded a lot worse if he'd tried playing in another key.
Next burning question: why did he invent that style of singing?


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Subject: RE: Joseph Spence
From: GUEST,Al
Date: 28 Jul 02 - 12:17 PM

I think he was just doing what comes naturally. He was the best. His music, more than any other, makes me want to get up and dance. I love the Arhoolie album. Lots of pops and scratches from being played a lot. Maybe I'll run it through a vinyl restoration algorithm and burn a CD. Al


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