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Dave Specter: Live In Chicago

Nic Jones By

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Dave Specter
Live In Chicago

Specter is now a cornerstone of the Chicago blues scene and also the Delmark catalog. The label's faith in him is more than justified on this showing as he and his band know that the blues has never been about showy virtuosity. Instead what they bring to the music is taut energy and economy and a collective mode of expression that's right in the pocket.

The sets on this DVD were caught live at Buddy Guy's and Rosa's Blues Lounge in Chicago in August of 2007, and they feature special guests Tad Robinson, Jimmy Johnson and Sharon Lewis respectively. On his four cuts Robinson proves himself to have the blue-eyed soul thing down pat, and on "How I Got To Memphis" the music could just as easily have come from that city as opposed to the one in Illinois. "What's Your Angle?" offers tart comment on superficial times in a manner that's some kind of staple in the blues, and Robinson's harmonica summons up the always welcome spirit of Little Walter.

At 79 years of age Jimmy Johnson is frightening for all the right reasons. His lead playing is the kind of thing you can strip paint with or hang your coat on, according to preference, and his slightly high, impassioned singing could make a believer out of the staunchest agnostic. Specter and the band know it as well as anyone, and their backing is accordingly as accommodating as it is prime. "Out On The Road" finds both guitarists keeping it trenchant yet sweet. It's enough to have listeners and viewers wondering when these forces are going to record together again. Having said all that, "Feel So Bad" can only be misleading when Johnson makes the referenced condition feel so high and when Specter turns in a solo demonstrating how inspired he was at the moment.

Sharon Lewis is one of those blues women for whom screaming is only a means to an end, not an end in itself. On "In Too Deep" she gets both band and audience fired up. Her voice, insofar as such a distinction can realistically be made, comes out of somewhere other than the church—possibly a juke joint. Whatever, it's a gas, and in that respect it's a summary of the whole program.

Tracks:Boss Funk/Riverside Ride; What Love Did To Me; How I Got To Memphis; What's Your Angle?; Texas Top; Out On The Road; Feel So Bad; You Don't Love Me; The Hollywood Park Shuffle; Is What It Is; In Too Deep; Every Goodbye Ain't Gone; Angel.

Personnel: Dave Specter: guitar; Brother John Kattke: keyboards; Harlan Terson: bass; Marty Binder: drums. Special Guests: Tad Robinson: vocals, harmonica (#2-4) Jimmy Johnson: vocals, guitar (#6-8) Sharon Lewis: vocals (#11-13)

Production Notes: 87 minutes. Recorded August 20, 2007 at Rosa's Blues Lounge, Chicago and at Buddy Guy's, August 21, 2007. Extras: Dave Specter Commentary (87 minutes) Discography. Photo Gallery.


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