Various Artists

Out on the Rolling Sea

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This Hokey Pokey charity collection, subtitled "a tribute to the music of Joseph Spence & the Pinder family," is a wonderful surprise. The surprise is that anyone would attempt a tribute album in honor of the late Spence, an idiosyncratic Bahamian guitarist whose gruff mumbling voice was accompanied by some of the most nimbly unpredictable guitar picking ever recorded. The wonder is how much this album succeeds in re-creating Spence's island zest and audacity. The guest list is delightfully far-ranging, from well known string dazzlers such as David Lindley and Ralph McTell to Malagasy musicians Tarika Sammy and Rossy. Victoria Williams and various vocal groups pay tribute to the Pinder family's joyous gospel singing. The album gets off to a grand start with a big production number from Van Dyke Parks (recorded as an unlikely single in 1972, this is the only track not specifically recorded for the album) before settling into a more natural island groove. Mandolinist David Grisman and guitarist Marc Silber perform a moving version of "People Get Ready." Wavy Gravy recalls Captain Beefheart, as well as Spence, as he hoarsely intones "The Crow" accompanied by Henry Kaiser and Steve Kimock. Singer/mandolinist Niles Hokkanen merges Joseph Spence with Jimi Hendrix as he and his band perform a seamless blending of "Good Morning Mr. Walker" with "Wait Until Tomorrow." The only misstep comes from 3 Mustaphas 3, who turn in an irritating 4½-minute assault dominated by the ranting of Uncle Patrel Mustapha. It breaks the idyllic mood of the album and is a candidate for permanent deletion programming on your CD player. Outside of that annoyance, it's time to grab a bottle of dark rum, sit back, and listen to the warm winds blow.

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