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Blues On Stage
The Blues Foundation's 1999 "Keeping the Blues Alive Award"|
Minnesota Blues Hall of Fame 2009 "Supportive of the Blues"
Dave Specter and Steve Freund|
Is What It Is
Review Date: Oct 2009
by Gordon Baxter
The names of Dave Specter and Steve Freund should require little introduction to aficionados of guitar. Although coming from different points on the blues spectrum, Specter was actually a pupil of Freund at one point. On "Is What It Is", master and student get reacquainted, and how!
The album opens in cracking style with the rocking "My Little Playhouse," on which the listener is treated to the first sample of the tasty feast that Specter and Freund have cooked up. Freund's vocals set it all off nicely too, being almost perfectly matched to the tune. Whilst this comes more from the mainstream of the blues spectrum, the instrumental title track, which follows has more of a jazzy feel to it. As if to make a point of their eclectic influences, the pair then serve up a beautifully relaxed version of Curtis Mayfield's "People Get Ready," with Rob Waters doing a fine job on B3.
What about some down home blues? You got it, in the shape of "Hoverin' Hawk," with Mark Hummel getting down and dirty on the harp. The band also excel on the classy Chicago blues of "Too Hot At Home" where Barrelhouse Chuck hits all the right notes in the right places to lend something a little extra special to what is already a great sound. In fact, there is not a duff track here from the start right through to a cracking version of Otis Spann's "She Needs Some Loving" which brings proceedings to an end over an hour after it all began.
If you ever need to demonstrate to someone just how good blues guitar--in the wider sense--can be, just slip on a copy of "Is What It Is." It really is that good. Dave Specter and Steve Freund are both classy guitarists in their own right, but when they get together the result is greater than just the sum of the two very fine individual parts. You will have to go along way to find a better blues guitar-based album this year.
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