Musician - 8/92, p.93
"..percussive, polyphonic and swinging...Spence is in fine form.."
Adapter: Joseph Spence.
Personnel: Joseph Spence (vocals, guitar).
Audio Remasterer: Alan Yoshida.
Liner Note Author: Samuel Charters.
Recording information: Fresh Creek Settlement, Andros, The Bahamas (07/23/1958).
Illustrator: Joan Wolbier.
Photographer: Ann Charters .
Bahamanian guitarist/singer Joseph Spence is the kind of hidden treasure blues and folk purists dream of. Recorded by Sam Charters for Folkways on one of Charters's trips to the Bahamas, these tapes capture nine wonderfully unique performances by Spence. Though his playing is based on traditional blues, Spence employs an idiosyncratic style replete with syncopated phrasing, sliding bass ostinatos, and rhythmic vamps all woven together with a fluid finger-picking technique. In addition, Spence's accompanies himself with a string of gutteral growls and grunts, and a monstrous-sounding, smile-inducing, dancing scat.
Whether reeling off improvisations on standards ("Coming in on a Wing and a Prayer") or on gleeful party numbers ("Jump in the Line"), Spence's rhythmic, angular approach (anchored by the insistent stomp of his foot) can only be called "funky." He is particularly enjoyable in his adaptations of gospel numbers ("I'm Going to Live That Life"), which he sprinkles with ragga/calypso-flavored vocals. The low fidelity of these field recordings makes Spence's vocals frustratingly difficult to hear, but this is a small price to pay for the opportunity to experience his distinctive, engaging music.