Dave Specter & Steve Freund

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Dave Specter & Steve Freund

Postby blueswriter » Sat Jan 08, 2005 1:36 am

[updated:LAST EDITED ON Jan-07-05 AT 09:02 PM (EST)]Dave Specter / Steve Freund
Is What It Is
Delmark (2004) DE-779

http://cover6.cduniverse.com/MuzeAudioA ... 537911.jpg

12 tracks, 67 minutes. Highly recommended. For those who thrive on electric blues featuring guitar slingers, Is What It Is from Dave Specter and Steve Freund is a first-round knockout winner, although if asked, it's doubtful either would consider himself a slinger. Both guitarists have carved their names in Chicago's history books through solid work as players, whether on their own recordings, or those of others, and in Specter's case, his production work has also proven to be top-notch, as it is on this release. Both artists have close ties to the Windy City; Specter a life-long resident when not touring, and Freund, a former Chicagoan who schooled Specter, now residing on the West Coast. Of the pair, Dave Specter has the jazzier approach with a rounder tone, while Steve Freund has more of a straight-ahead attack with a sharper edge, so telling them apart shouldn't be difficult for those unfamiliar with their work. Freund takes the vocals on this outing and he's proven with each addition to his catalog that he's matured as a singer, and his work here is of particular note; his voice is now as much an instrument in his arsenal as his guitar playing. My Little Playhouse, Hoverin' Hawk, Loan A Helping Hand, Too Hot At Home, She Needs Some Loving and Rollin' Man all feature Freund's old-school vocal phrasing with a voice as rich as it is deep and soulful. And while the tandem stand toe-to-toe skillfully ripping out taut guitar solos on the half-instrumental disc, this isn't an affair to be likened with the countless hopeful guitar heroes of tomorrow - these two know their place, they know when to speak through their instruments, and they are both keenly aware of when to step back allowing the music to breathe as it needs to, proven to great effect on their shimmering reading of Peter Green's Albatross. Also present and worth note is a smoldering version of While My Guitar Gently Weeps among a handful of other stellar tracks. The pair are ably backed throughout by Harlan Terson, Rob Waters, and Marty Binder, all familiar names in modern Chicago Blues, while Barrelhouse Chuck adds his rumbling piano to two songs and Mark Hummel tosses in harp on one. As blues moves along in the 21st century and more influences creep in steering the music away from its roots, it's refreshing to hear two dyed-in-the-wool guitarists steer it back where it belongs, all the while appealing to a wide range of listeners from a number of camps. Hats off to Dave Specter and Steve Freund for displaying creativity and masterful ability.

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© 2004 by Craig Ruskey
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