Dave Specter

Message in Blue

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Dave Specter and Chicago blues go hand in hand, but while Specter has been a fixture on the Chicago blues scene since the 1980s, he's been increasingly branching out into other forms and genres with his elegant, graceful, sparkling-clear guitar playing, touching down here, on his tenth album, on soul-jazz, Latin rhythms, New Orleans street corner horn stomps, and good old gut-bucket soul. Oh, there's the blues here, too, but Specter has moved beyond that, really, and is exploring so much more on his albums, all without losing that blues base, or that wonderful, warm tone that is his signature as a guitar player. Specter is not a vocalist, choosing, as he's put it, to do his singing with his guitar, and consequently, he loves working with great singers, his guitar forming a duet of sorts with the vocalist. That approach pays off big here on the three tracks that feature guest vocalist Otis Clay. Clay and Specter turn Harold Burrage's "Got to Find a Way" and Wilson Pickett's "I Found a Love" into wonderful, vibrant pieces of Chicago soul, helped by the Chicago Horns, and they're clearly the two most striking tracks on the album. Other highlights in this varied and balanced (roughly half instrumentals and half vocal tracks) set include the Meters-like instrumental "Funkified Outta Space," the fun "Jefferson Stomp," which features some solid slide guitar work from Specter, and the Latin-tinged "Spectifyin' Samba," but the whole album has a warm, unified flow to it, and Specter's guitar playing swings, bites and slides through everything, singing its heart out.

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