Smithsonian Folkways releases album of new music from Bahamian guitar legend Joseph Spence

Article Contributed by HearthMusic | Published on Monday, July 19, 2021

Smithsonian Folkways Recordings is proud to release new, never-before-heard recordings from the great Bahamian guitar legend and otherworldly talent Joseph Spence (1910-1984) coming July 16, 2021. Recorded by renowned recording engineer, documentarian, and producer Peter Siegel in 1965 in New York City and the Bahamas, Encore: Unheard Recordings of Bahamian Guitar and Singing offers a look at a grandmaster at work, at the height of his powers and recorded with expert equipment. The album also includes two entirely new songs that Spence had never recorded before and new settings of Spence classics! A brilliantly virtuosic guitarist who influenced everyone from Richard Thompson to The Grateful Dead, Ry Cooder, and Taj Mahal, Joseph Spence was infused with the spirit of improvisation. As he sang, lyrics tumbled over exclamations, swaying between guttural interjections and fast-rhyming patter. Though he came up among the fishermen of the Bahamas, singing briny vocal harmonies with them late into the night, his music was wholly his own, and so original that it has inspired multiple generations ever since he was first discovered in the late 1950s. And yet despite the dazzling craft in his music, Spence was an artist who also loved to play. “There’s a playfulness to his music, that’s who he was!” Siegel explains. “Having met him and known him, he was like that. He’d get fascinated by something and have a unique thing to say about it.”