CD Review: Dave Specter – Spectified

By Thaddeus Krolicki

This review is late in coming, since Dave Specter’s latest album, Spectified, was released in August of 2010.  However, I have now been able to listen to it several times and have obtained a better appreciation and understanding of the music.  The amazing thing about Specter’s work is how he has managed to remain stylistically consistent throughout his career while simultaneously pushing the limits of the Blues.   He has a distinctive, recognizable guitar style which, though drenched in classic Blues and mid-20th century Jazz, is all his own.  Spectified is Specter’s second all instrumental album and his first album for the Fret12 label.  This album finds Specter continuing down the same musical path as he did with his albums on Delmark, although many of the tunes have a harder edge.  This is evident on “Alley Walk,” and the cover of Freddie King’s “Wash Out.”  The former is a lowdown, gutsy Blues tune that features some dark, swampy soloing that at times recall John Fogerty, as well as some fine, Robert Nighthawk style-slide.  On “Lumpus D’Rumpus,” and “Octavate’n,” Specter takes classic Blues patterns from Jimmy Reed and Junior Wells, and over laces them with Jazz-inflected melodies.  Personally, my favorite tunes are “Azulado,” “Slick Pick,” and the cover of Ma Rainey’s standard, “See See Rider.”  “Azulado” is a slow, moody exotic Jazz tune that recalls the 1960s work of Bluesy Jazz guitarists like Wes Montgomery, Kenny Burrell and Grant Green.  “Slick Pick,” is a fast-paced, organ groove tune that takes an old Chicago Blues riff, that Specter learned from artists like Magic Slim and John Primer, and reinvents it as an up-tempo Jazz tune.   “See See Rider,” done here as slow Blues, proves why Specter is renowned as one of Chicago’s top Blues guitarists.  Specter elegantly plays the melody and then engages in a well-constructed, extremely soulful solo.  To put things simply, it burns with intensity.  As with his previous albums, Specter manages to take the classic Blues guitar sounds of Otis Rush and Magic Sam and apply them to a variety of Blues styles.  The album was recorded at his Evanston studio, S.P.A.C.E., and features many of his longtime collaborators, including bassist Harlan Terson, keyboardist Brother John Kattke and saxophonist Dez Desormeaux, who appeared on Specter’s first album, Bluebird Blues.  Jazz organist Pete Benson is also featured on three tracks.   This album is recommended to anyone with an enthusiasm for Blues, from purists to modernists, as Specter masterfully balances elegance and grit.  The Dave Specter you hear on 2010’s Spectified is the same one you hear on 1991’s Bluebird Blues.  Yet, he has managed to remain distinctive while expanding his musical horizons over the course of two decades.  That is not an easy feat to achieve.  Those who think that Blues can no longer be innovative, yet remain steeped in tradition, or believe that loud Blues-rock is all that the Blues world has to offer these days, ought to take a listen.

Mark Augustine

Mark Augustine

Mark Augustine is a faculty member at Columbia College Chicago and a staff writer at BG: Blues And Music News.

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