Joseph Spence was a virtuoso guitarist and master arranger in a style that was uniquely personal and yet caught the imagination of musicians around the world. He has been compared to the great blues masters, the African acoustic pioneers, and Thelonious Monk, and he inspired such varied disciples as Ry Cooder (who has recorded four of his arrangements), Taj Mahal, John Renbourn, and David Lindley. Born on the island of Andros in the Bahamas in 1910, Spence worked as a stone mason, playing mostly the religious songs he and his neighbors sang in church. His guitar arrangements capture the sound of these Bahaman gospel groups, with rhythms reflecting deep African roots and the roll of boats on the sea, and multi-part voicings in which bass and lead improvise independent, complementary lines.
As well as being a joy to play, Spences arrangements have valuable lessons for any curious guitarist. They are master classes in how to fingerpick in waltz time and capture the rolling Caribbean rhythms of Trinidad, Cuba or New Orleans. His separation of bass and treble, and the parallel voicings of his melody lines, teach interesting ways of harmonizing fingerstyle improvisations. And his unorthodox technique and brilliant improvisations break down old habits, and make one approach the guitar from a unique and fresh perspective. Tunes taught include:
- Oh How I Love Jesus
- Happy Meeting In Glory
- Brownskin Girl
- The Glory of Love
- The Lord is My Shepherd
- Coming in on a Wing and a Prayer
Bonus audio tracks: 55 minutes of unreleased songs and interviews.
A detailed tab/music instructional booklet is included as a PDF file on the DVD.