Dave Specter with Otis Clay Message in Blue Album Review

don and sheryls blues blog – June 4, 2014

Dave Specter is a man of many moods when it comes to blues guitar. The Chicago native is equally at home blasting out a funky, West Side-flavored number as he is in playing vintage R & B, and even a taste of jazz. His ability to draw from all these sources is why he is such a pleasure to listen to, and it’s what makes his latest album for Delmark, “Message In Blue,” so irresistibly good.

Dave knows the importance of the backing crew, and he’s got some fine ones behind him. The core band is Dave on guitar, Harlan Terson on bas, Marty Binder on drums, and local hero Brother John Kattke on keys and on lead vocal on three cuts. There are a few special guests, also, as Bob Corritore adds harp to two cuts, and the mighty mighty soul man himself, Otis Clay, takes lead vocal on three classic cuts.

Dave will be the first to say that he’s not afraid to sing, but would rather play behind a singer, as, to him, his guitar is his voice. On this set, he lays down seven instrumentals, all of which take a varied path down the blues highway. Check out “Funkified Outta Space,” which features a Meters-style groove, and “The Spectified Samba,” a Latin-tinged piece that has Dave’s guitar in lock-step with Boom Brumbach’s sax, as they follow one another, note for note! The country-blues of “Jefferson Stomp” features Bob Corritore’s harp, and the driving beat gives the illusion of being on a freight train headin’ south to the Delta! And, the set closes with “Opus De Swamp,” with Dave’s tremolo guitar and Bob’s harp layin’ down a deep Bayou groove.

The vocal cuts brought forth some truly amazing performances. Brother John Kattke gives a fine read of the swingin’ Lonnie Brooks shuffle, “Watchdog,” and sizzles on the too-cool-for-school “Chicago Style,” which name-checks all the Windy City legends from “the South Side to the Magnificent Mile!”

Soul great Otis Clay is in rare form herein, also. Dave’s affinity for classic soul plays well behind Otis’ fiery take on “Got To Find A Way,” and again on the minor-key slow-burn tribute to Bobby Bland, “This Time I’m Gone For Good.” And, Dave nails that vibrato guitar lick that is prevalent throughout Pickett’s “I Found A Love,” while Otis flat knocks this one outta the park with his down-on-bended-knee-styled testifyin’ vocal.

Dave Specter has been a torch-bearer for the classic Chicago blues guitar sound throughout his career, adding his own flairs to give things that persnal touch that differentiates him from the rest of the pack. “Message In Blue” is Dave’s most impressive set thus far! Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, Nashville Blues Society.

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