Blues Bytes

Pick Hit

March 2009

an associate
Order this CD today


Saffre - The Uppity Blues Women
Havin' The Last Word
Alligator Records


After practically a 20-year recording career – entirely on Alligator Records – Havin' The Last Word (Alligator) is the concluding release from the critically praised acoustic blues trio, Saffire - The Uppity Blues Women. Singer / guitarist / harmonicist Gaye Adegbalola explains the rationale behind the break-up: “For many years our visions coincided, but as we have aged and grown, our individual agendas have changed.”

Other members of this titanic-talented threesome include pianist/guitarist/vocalist Ann Rabson and multi-instrumentalist/vocalist Andra Faye. In 1990, after six years of playing regionally in Virginia, they released their self-titled debut album. Quickly they were catapulted from being local favorites to international blues stars.

They play and write deep music. Even if they couldn’t, they’d be remembered for their delightful voices. Faye is emotive and expressive with her vocals. With her pleasant voice, it’s like she was born to be on Broadway. Listen and you’ll picture her on stage, full of life and beaming with a confident smile. On the sad, soft, and stunning "Blue Lullaby," her warbling county & western voice sounds like Crystal Gayle.

You hear pain in the voices of Rabson and Adegbalola, but you also detect a strong sense of courage. Adegbalola delivers vocals on "Bald Headed Blues" – a rockin’ country blues song about the effects of chemotherapy and battling cancer – with the conviction of a fire-and-brimstone sermon-telling preacher. Everyone sings on "Going Down To The River." Here, Faye’s voice is soft and pretty, Rabson’s is bold and it roars, while Adegbalola mixes both styles. The song is about receiving a new birth in life. It’s very topical given their post-Saffire plans, which involve solo careers, speaking engagements, and teaching.

Their individual styles stand out on this album. Within a few bars of each song you can tell whose song it is. The topics of the 16 songs include the effects of the economy, getting older, human anatomy, and sex. The CD contains everything you expect from Saffire, e.g., raunchy songs in the tradition of Bessie Smith and Ma Rainey, and everything is written from a determined and witty woman’s perspective. "Kitchen Man" and "Bald Eagle" are loaded with humorous double entendre lyrics, while "Too Much Butt" is simply hysterical. Throughout, Rabson’s fingers dance over the keyboard and make the piano sound heartfelt and warm. As on "Haste Makes Waste," her barrelhouse piano rhumbas don’t need the support of the other band members.

The most provocative songs are written and/or performed by Adegbalola. She’d “rather be hated for who I am/than loved for who I’m not” on "Nothin’ In Your House." A melodramatic piano solo is present on "Locked Up" which contains a gospel-like chorus. It was written for Adegbalola’s cousin, who was imprisoned for supposedly raping a white woman. While he was incarcerated, family members died and a feud began among siblings. She first heard the phrase "locked up, but not locked out" during a prayer by a deacon at her church, and immediately knew it belonged in a song.

The CD’s most memorable melody is "I Can Do Bad All By Myself." Its sing-along chorus and chord progression sounds like a protest song. Lyrically, it's based on fact, but it’s been embellished for dramatic effect and to make it completely relevant. The title came from an inspirational aunt, who had an awful, abusive marriage. She'd reply, "I can do bad by myself" when asked why she never remarried. The song’s factual events involve a friend whose lover spent all of his money. He only realized what had transpired when his debit card was rejected during an attempted transaction.

Saffire are a little vaudeville, blues, and brazen, but most all of they are themselves. Hearing these fearless songs reveals these passionate ladies have lived life, learned from its misgivings, and are all the better for it. As heard in lyrics like “bad times make the good times better,” their songs preach to expect suffering and to grow from it. Don’t be fooled. This isn’t a pity party. In their final hour – literally, as the CD’s runtime is 60 minutes – their strength, joy, and love is positive. Whenever they decided to call it quits, you just knew these sassy gals were going to have the last word.

--- Tim Holek (with thanks to Gaye Adegbalola for the insight into her songs)

One of my fondest memories of Saffire - The Uppity Blues Women, was a show they played here in Scottsdale at the old Rockin’ Horse before a fire took away one of the great clubs in the Valley. They were full of sass and attitude as they proceeded to delightfully entertain all of us who came out that night. I’ve seen them several times since then, but nothing quite compares to the magic of that evening. So when their new record, Havin’ the Last Word, showed up on my doorstep, I was sad to read that this is indeed, their last recording as a group as they’ve all collectively decided to pursue a new set of dreams, each to their own. I think Bruce Iglauer said it best in his letter of introduction: “Though this will be Saffire’s last album, it’s not a requiem; it’s a celebration.” So let’s start the party and celebrate all of the joy the women of Saffire have brought us all over the years!

Andra Faye’s mandolin provides the introduction to our first cut on the disc, “Going Down To The River.” A song of rejuvenation, going down to the river is a way to cleanse life’s troubles away, “something tells me…everything will be all right…sometimes its hits you hard…sometimes it lifts you right off the ground…something tells me…it will be all right!” The sweet notes of Ann’s piano lead us into our next tune, “Nothin In Your House.” In typical Saffire fashion, Ann is just going to do what Ann wants to do. “When I get liquored up or drink Jose…Lord, you never know what I might do or might say…you can say it ain’t ladylike for a girl get to get soused…but what do I care…I ain’t got nothing in your house!” Up next is “Kitchen Man,” an ode to all good things a man can accomplish in the kitchen. “His jelly roll’s so nice and hot…never fails to hit the spot…his frankfurters are all so sweet…how I like his sausage meet…I can’t do without…my kitchen man!”

“Somebody’s Gotta Give” finds Andra at odds with her man and this relationship has hit its rough spot. “Somebody’s got to turn around…if our love is going to live…are you getting where I’m coming from…somebody’s got to give!” Andra’s man is just not appreciating all she’s given him and this one might not make it. Gaye’s slide guitar leads us into “Bald Headed Blues,” a discussion of the results of treatment for cancer. “Doctor said to me, Girl, you’re going to lose your hair…I thought he meant on my head…but Lord, he meant everywhere…now my head is round and shiny…and my ears look really big…but I still love myself…no need to hide it with a wig!” In “Since You’ve Been Gone,” Ann is left to deal with the aftermath of a failed relationship. “I saw you in town today…you asked me how I’ve been…I didn’t want to let my feelings show…so I just said “I’m doing fine”…held on to this pride of mine…I’ll be damned before I’ll let you know!

“Blue Lullaby” finds Andra back at the microphone, “I sing a blue lullaby…most every night…count every star that I see…hoping there’ll be…one shining bright!” Gaye’s harmonica in the background provides a soothing, reassuring tone that everything will be all right and is just beautiful. Very well done. Next we find Ann back on a tune she wrote with EG Kight, “Traveling at the Speed of Love.” “I’m a state of shock…my heart’s electrified…feet flying off the ground…but I’m hanging on tight…but it feels so good…traveling at the speed of love!” All’s good and she’s definitely in love with this traveling man! “I Can Do Bad All By Myself” is the title of Gaye’s tale of woe. “Now you come home…all messed up…your words are counterfeit…yea, you steal and deal, you pawn and scam…everything has turned to…???...debt! I’ve lost more than my assets…I’ve lost my good name too…well, things will get better…now that I’m through with you.”

The deep, deep tones of the upright bass have Andra at the helm and telling us all about “Too Much Butt.” “I may have a lot…but I’ll tell you what…there’s no such thing as…too much butt!” Definitely a tune that reminds us all why we loves these ladies so much. “Haste Makes Waste” finds Ann lamenting the unfaithfulness of her lover. “They say good things come to those who wait…and I, guess they do…while you were waiting for me…your good thing came to you…now, I’m waiting by the telephone…like you used to do…they say good things come to those who wait…and I guess they do.” A man in jail is the object of Gaye’s consideration in “Locked Up.” “And so we pray…for grace to day…to light the path…to clear the way…we love you so…want you to know…that we will never, never let you go…you may be locked up…but not locked out…of my heart!”

“I bought my ticket…but the plane ain’t flying…can’t rent a car…for all my trying…I’ll start walking home to you.” Andra is working hard to make her relationship this work and she’s not happy that she left without clearing the air. “Walkin’ on Home to You” seems to be the only alternative she has left to get back to her man and set the record straight. “Bald Eagle” is Gaye’s latest commentary on a fan favorite of Saffire, “Silver Beaver.” “I’ve got a fine…bald eagle…wait till you see her spread her wings…and you ain’t heard nothing…until you hear my bald sing!” Fans of Saffire will know exactly what I’m talking about and we’ll leave it at that.

“I’m Growing Older,” a tune by Deanna Bogart, typifies the Saffire attitude about life and aging. “When I’m over 80, what a lady…they’ll all swoon…I’ll strut my stuff…knock down any door…I know just what I want…and I know I want more…I’m growing older…and I’m just fine getting old!” Another Ann/EG Kight tune, “The Bad Times,” is the final song on Havin’ the Last Word. “We walked through the fire…oh what a fire…we had burning…deep in our soul…kept us going…all the while knowing…these words of wisdom…we’ve been told. The bad times…make the good times better…bad times make our love grow strong…if we can’t keep holding on together…the good times will before long.”

Havin the Last Word is just that. Ann, Gaye and Andra have taken the time and care to leave us with a wonderful record that serves as a loving testament to all that Saffire - The Uppity Blues Women have stood for: hard work, belief in each other, attitude and an undying love for their fans. These crazy, wild, loveable women will be on tour for the rest of this year so go see them when you can, take the time to thank them for all the joy they’ve given you and tell them you love them. A group of women like this in Blues comes once in a lifetime and fortunately for all of us, it was our lifetime.

--- Kyle Deibler



[Pick Hit][What's New][Surprise][Flashback][Feedback][Back Issues][Home Page]


The Blues Bytes URL... 
Revised: February 28, 2009 - Version 1.00
All contents Copyright © 2009, Blue Night Productions. All rights reserved.