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Living On the Hallelujah Side

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Album Review

Bahamian guitarist/vocalist Joseph Spence's humming, flailing, sensational singing and playing combined secular flair and spiritual fervor in a manner close to that of the brilliant Blind Willie Johnson and Rev. Gary Davis. This set of 1970s performances, reissued on CD, included evocative renditions of "A Closer Walk with Thee," "More and More with Jesus," and "When the Saints Go Marching In," plus equally arresting versions of "Irene Goodnight" and the holiday ditty "Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town." Spence was incapable of self-indulgence or fakery; his lines, phrasing, riffs, and solos are enchanting, while his vocal effects and accompaniment often come close to surpassing his playing. This was simply magical material, the kind that comes only from a genuine original.


Born: August, 1910 in Andros, Bahama

Genre: Blues

Years Active: '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s

Born on the island of Andrus in the Bahamas, Spence created an idiosyncratic (and inimitable) guitar style rife with percussive and improvisatory vamps around staid hymns and such "square" standards as "Coming in on a Wing and a Prayer." He was a folk guitarist's Thelonious Monk, and his growling vocal...
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Living On the Hallelujah Side, Joseph Spence
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