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CD REVIEW -- Dave Specter
WGLT Highway 309


Blues From The Inside Out

Delmark Records

12 tracks

Dave Specter Blues From The Inside Out CD art

By Steve Jones

Blues From The Inside Out is the new CD from renowned Chicago blues guitar great Dave Specter and the first CD featuring Dave testing out his vocals (spoiler alert– he does a great job!). He has appeared on over 40 albums in his 35 year career and was inducted into the Chicago Blues Hall of Fame last year.  Blending blues, jazz, and soul has been his trademark and he continues his run of excellent recordings with this new album. The album also features some great guests, including Hot Tuna/Jefferson Airplane legend Jorma Kaukonen on guitar on two tracks and Brother John Kattke on keyboards and organ and also with vocals on four tracks.

Dave’s band includes blues veterans Harlan Terson on bass and Marty Binder on drums.  These two guys comprise the tightest and coolest backline on the music scene in Chicago.  Also appearing here are Sarah Marie Young on vocals for the next to last track, Bill Brichta on acoustic guitar on that same track, and Ruben Alvarez on percussion on a trio of tracks.  The Liquid Soul Horns also appear on three cuts; they are Mars Williams on tenor sax, John Janowiak on trombone, and Ron Haynes on trumpet.  Tad Robinson and Devin Thompson also sing backup on four cuts.

Specter makes his vocal debut on the opening track, the title cut.  He does a great job singing about paying your dues playing the blues and gives us some wickedly cool guitar to enjoy on top of that. He follows up his debut with “How Low Can One Man Go,” a commentary on Donald Trump.  The title says it all for lyrical content. Jorma Kaukonen lays out some nasty licks in support of Dave, some really cool stuff. Dave sings with passion and grit, delivering a fine performance. “Asking For A Friend” is the other Specter vocal track, a slick number about his woman who is sneaking out on him.  He solos on guitar twice with some slick licks, too. He seems comfortable singing lyrics he writes, so perhaps this is just the start of many more great songs with Dave fronting the band!

Brother John Kattke handles the vocals starting with “Ponchatoula Way,” the second track on the album. It also features the horn section and a super piano solo by John along with Dave’s guitar solo. It’s got a nice, swampy feel and it’s a winner. “March Through Darkness” is up next on the CD and Brother John offers up a soulful set of vocals. It’s a great song, inspired by Mavis Staples, about tolerance and unity.  Specter gives us a thoughtful solo followed by a nice organ solo by Kattke. He returns later to deliver Kaukonen’s lyrics on “The Blues Ain’t Nothin’,” a jazzy blues with solid horn support. Kaukonen adds his guitar to the mix for some soloing and sparring with Dave. John finishes up with piano and vocals on the next cut “Opposites Attract.” It’s a bouncy blues, with clever lyrics about the battle of the sexes, cut with a nice guitar and piano solo and backing harmonies.

Sarah Marie’s show-stopping lead vocal comes to us on the acoustic “Wave’s Gonna Come.” Opening to acoustic guitar and ocean sounds, Young gives us passion in her delivery in this song about change coming.  She builds her voice right along with Dave’s expressive guitar -- a very cool and emotional number. Fans of Guy King will recognize this talented jazz chanteuse, who also happens to be his wife.

The instrumentals start with “Sanctifunkious,” a funky track with Dave’s guitar and some delightful organ work. Three more instrumentals follow with “Minor Shout,” a sweet, minor key midtempo romp with guitar and organ, featuring some interesting key changes. “Soul Drop” features the fabulous horns again along with guitar and organ.  It’s a fun ride and the guitar/organ/guitar solo is nicely done.  The horns and Dave on guitar fade things to end the piece. The album concludes with “String Chillin’,” a soft and slow ramble that shifts gears a bit as Dave moves into a big solo.  Kattke follows him on the piano as the two amble on and then peacefully and slowly work their way to the end.  It’s a pretty finish to an exciting and varied 12-song recording.

This is a fantastic album.  I was excited to get it in the mail and it did not disappoint me.  Dave’s last CD with Otis Clay, Message In Blue was his best, and it turns out this one is right there with it.  The only thing that disappointed me was that it had to finally end.

Dave also has a great podcast on the internet that just happens to be entitled the same as this new CD. It’s got a heck of a lot of great interviews and music, check it out at:

This is an important album.  Specter continues his quest to make superb music.  His guitar work is flawless.  His songwriting is superb.  His new endeavor into vocals adds a new dimension to his work and I can’t wait to hear more!  I think this is an album that all blues fans will enjoy– I most highly recommend getting a copy for your listening pleasure!

For info or to buy the music:

About the Author: Steve Jones is president of the Crossroads Blues Society of Northern Illinois in Byron/Rockford, which earned the 2013 Keepin’ The Blues Alive Award from the Blues Foundation in Memphis.


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