Rediscovering Joseph Spence

Rediscovering Joseph Spence

Rediscovering Joseph Spence

When I first started playing guitar, I got my hands on a copy of Happy Traum’s Finger-Picking Styles for Guitar (1966: New York, Oak Publications — still available on Amazon). I was just starting to learn pattern picking, so I was pleased when the book included a couple of tunes I was familiar with, particularly Mississippi John Hurt’s My Creole Belle. Deep in the back pages I found There Will Be a Happy Meeting. That was my first encounter with Bahamian guitarist Joseph Spence, an artist of complex and unique style whose recordings reveal the deep connection between his music and his spirit.

Now decades later, Spence is being discovered by a new generation of listeners, and he’s recently been written up in a piece in The New Yorker, The Miraculous Field Recording: The Guitar Playing of Joseph Spence. The article is a quick read, and a reminder that musical discovery relies on insights acquired through the studies of art and anthropology, not corporate capitalism.

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