The Gospel According to Mr Niz
My name is Joe Nisbet Jr and this is the first time I’ve sung on a recording.
At the end of May this year I went into Castlesound Studios in Pencaitland with 13 songs and a handful of chums. It took four days to finish the record, but 30 years to start it . . . . .
My dad was an evangelical preacher, and when I was a boy my first American tours were with him as he preached every night for 2 months across the south from Texas to Carolina – always with unaccompanied singing, full of passion and belief. It was the beginning of a lifelong fascination with the classic sound of the black gospel quintets of 40’s and 50’s.
The commitment and excitement of that music stayed with me while I played the fool and the guitar with punk bands and 80’s pop acts, most hedonistically with China Crisis, until I recognised the same glorious noise when I heard The Proclaimers’ first record. Over the next 15 years I worked closely with Charlie & Craig on 4 albums and hundreds of shows until things came to a natural conclusion in 2003.
Since then I’ve been playing guitar for all sorts of people – mates in pubs, hotshot session bands, folk bands, rock bands, profitable bands, fantastic young bands you haven’t heard of yet, and established bands you certainly have heard of.
Most influential, however, have been Dick Gaughan – playing with him has taught me how to hear the flexible internal rhythm of a song - and Justin Currie, who encouraged me to sing harmony with him, and insisted that I sing a lead vocal in public.
So it was those two outstanding singers who finally answered the question that had held this project back for decades – who was I going to get to sing on my gospel album?
I decided to do it myself with the sparest possible instrumentation, discarding all the harmony, tambourines, hallelujahs and other distractions from the song itself. No celebrity soloists, no choirs of pop stars, just my personal gospel.
One Sunday morning in the early nineties, I was nursing a shocking hangover in Dallas along with Nico, who plays the string bass on the record. We went into the hotel bar where a gospel lunch was in full swing - “We could play that stuff,” he said .
I still don’t think we could have back in those careless days.
But twenty years later we could, and here it is - it probably won’t save your soul, but it might just save mine.
Joe Nisbet Jr