Jeremy Spencer

Jeremy Spencer
Precious Little

Blind Pig Records BP CD5106

By Art Tipaldi
November 2006

Look for this to cop the Blues Music Award for 2007’s Comeback Album of the Year. In fact, this Blind Pig record could be one of the most historic comeback records of the decade.

In 1967, Jeremy Spencer was one of the founding members of Fleetwood Mac. It was Spencer’s penetrating slide guitar, borne from his love of Elmore James’ Chess recordings which rooted the group in the Chicago blues they all loved.

Throughout Europe and America, Spencer’s slide guitar, which effortlessly transforms emotions into notes, became as important a guitar influence as “Clapton Is God”. But in 1971, Spencer walked away from the spotlight to join the Church of God and search out more fulfilling personal endeavors. Fleetwood Mac moved to LA, hired Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks, turned to soft rock and found commercial success.

Spencer found success of a different type. Through those years, he never put his music aside - but it was always music that served a higher purpose. After years of infrequent performances and recordings, Spencer was sought out by Norway’s Jostein Forsberg, and in 2005, he was coaxed out of seclusion to perform at the Notodden Blues Festival in Norway.

He’d lost nothing. His playing was as strong and his singing was as powerful as it was in his early Fleetwood days. One thing led to another and, to the delight of blues fans around the world, Spencer agreed to record in the fall of 2005 in Notodden’s Juke Joint Studio with an all Norwegian backing band. This stellar recording is the result.

Unlike the frantic slide guitar work of today’s electric guitarists, Spencer’s slide floats like the flight of a fragile butterfly. His lyrical slide technique turns his Resonator into another harmonious voice. Unlike his Fleetwood guitar mate Peter Green, whose playing offers sporadic brilliance, Spencer is always deep in the music.

Because it was the slide guitar of Elmore James that stopped Spencer’s teenage universe, he records two of James’ tunes here. The seminal “It Hurts Me Too” is recorded much differently then other versions. There is a late night jazz aura to the tune, which features Spencer’s succinct note picking over Espen Liland’s quiet chording. Spencer’s vintage vocals plead and ache with maturity. James’ “Bleeding Heart” is played in a similar, low light style.

There are many originals showcasing Spencer’s love of all music.

On the disc’s opener “Bitter Lemon,” and the traditionally adapted ”Serena, Serena” and “Many Sparrows,” Spencer’s heavy brass slide works an old school sound on his Resonator.

He darkens his music on “Psychic Waste,” a blistering, juke joint free-for-all. On “Dr. J,” a song reminiscent of hot 1950’s R&B, Spencer enlists vintage horn lines to pay tribute to the full-bodied Chess music he grew up hearing. (Could Dr. J. be Elmore?)

When he also records Gordon Gaibraith’s “Please Don’t Stop,” Spencer is set in Sun Studios on Union Avenue in rockabilly Memphis. Runar Boyesen’s Jerry Lee Lewis-like piano rises above the other musicians and steals the song. Put on your blue suede’s and start the boppin’.

Finally the title cut, “Precious Little,” offers a simple philosophy of life that Spencer has lived by since 1971. The lyrics are so meaningful, only Spencer’s voice is needed. But adding a Mark Knofler-sounding slide, and the band’s strong melodic backing, and you have a masterpiece song to hang on your walls and get lost in the detail of each musical stroke.

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