If you are not familiar with Chicago guitarist Dave Specter, this–his tenth album–may be your perfect introduction. Specter plays with a full, sharp, stinging tone, and like the best guitarists, he is intent on hitting the right notes rather than spraying tons and tons of them. Specter offers a scintillating mix of killer instrumentals and spine tingling soul, R&B, and funk. That’s due in part to having one the best deep soul singers, Otis Clay, aboard for three tracks as well as the stunning vocals of Brother John Kattke for three others. On top of that, Chicago soul sax icon Willie Henderson & The Chicago Horns and harmonica ace Bob Corritore also appear on the album. Together they cover it all: an emotive tribute to Bobby “Blue” Bland from Clay in “This Time I’m Gone for Good,” Clay’s to-die-for turn on Wilson Pickett’s “I Found a Love” and Kattke covering Lonnie Brooks’ “Watchdog”. Specter’s own “Chicago Style”, sung by Kattke, could become a Chicago blues anthem with the right kind of push.
Specter’s instrumentals hit those deep grooves more often associated with soul jazz guitarists like Grant Green and Kenny Burrell. Hints of the Meters, Latin jazz, and soulful R&B blend together seamlessly from Specter’s deft picking. Delmark was so proud of this recording that they made Message In Blue their first vinyl issue since 1991 when they released Bluebird Blues by…Dave Specter (with Barkin Bill and Ronnie Earl). Specter does not bring the spiritual intensity of today’s Ronnie Earl recordings, but he has a similar unmistakable presence. Neither needs to sing as their eloquent guitars speak volumes.
– Jim Hynes