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Saffire - The Uppity Blues Women
@ The Blues Saloon, June 5, 1998

The Blues Saloon, 6/5/98
Photo © 1998 by Tom Asp. All rights reserved
"This song is for all the wild women in the house," said Gaye Adegbalola, as Saffire launched into the 1924 Ida Cox song, "Wild Women Don't Have The Blues." The upstairs room at the Blues Saloon was packed (with quite a few wild women too). The three ladies who make up Saffire - The Uppity Blues Women, were sharp, outspoken, irreverent, humorous, topical, fun, musical, earthy, spunky, satirical, a bit sassy, a little bit more bawdy (or should I say "blue"), and definitely ready to entertain. They even went on stage 15 minutes before they were scheduled because they didn't want to disappoint their fans.

As I was walking up to the club a car stopped and the occupants asked who was playing tonight. I said, "Saffire," and added that they were very good. I saw them again at the break and they said they were VERY glad they decided to come in. That's the response of just about everyone who attends a Saffire show. These ladies know how to entertain an audience and leave them with a memorable experience.

Ann Rabson
The Blues Saloon, 6/5/98
Photo © 1998 by Tom Asp. All rights reserved
The group is made up of Ann Rabson on piano, vocals, kazoo and guitar, Gaye Adegbalola on guitar and harmonica and Andra Faye on bass, fiddle, mandolin and guitar. And they played all those instruments at the show with Ann even throwing her kazoo out into the audience after one of the songs. Ann and Gaye have known each other for 20 years (Gaye used to take guitar lessons from Ann). Andra joined the band about 6 years ago. They are from Virginia and Ann said the Piedmont guys from that area influenced her on Guitar.

These ladies are excellent musicians, vocalists and songwriters drawing much of their inspiration from the early blues divas of the 1920's and modern day life experiences (especially from the women's perspective). When asked how they were fairing in a male dominated blues world they were quick to point out that it was the women who really started the blues back in the 20's. People like Ma Rainey, Bessie Smith, Alberta Hunter, Ida Cox, and the other great divas of the 20's. Gaye said, "we go back to the 1920's and 30's for both our inspiration and some of our material. We grew out of that classic blues sound, but nothing's sacred, we will do a Chicago blues as well as a Bessie Smith."

Ann's great barrelhouse piano is very good. I could listen to her boogie woogie style all night long. She is also a very soulful keyboard player, making what she does appear effortless. It's a little deceptive as to just how good she really is because she tends to underplay and offer great backing support to the rest of the band. Gaye plays a mean harmonica and Faye brings a multi instrumental attack that adds some great depth and variety to their music.

Gaye Adegbalola
The Blues Saloon, 6/5/98
Photo © 1998 by Tom Asp.
All rights reserved
Gaye has a strong, confident, classic blues voice. Ann has a deeper, relaxed voice with some rough edges that go right to the core of any song. Faye is equally adept on the upright bass, fiddle, mandolin and guitar and they all share song writing duties with most coming from Adegbalola. Some of their songs were quite explicit too. "Silver Beaver," "School Teacher's Blues," "Bitch With A Bad Attitude," and "Middle Aged Blues Boogie." They are not bashful singing about anything on stage and some of the lyrics from these songs were bawdy enough to make a drunken sailor blush.

During the introduction to the song "Middle Aged Blues Boogie" Gaye said, "no harm in an older woman taking up with a younger man, as long as everybody's single just do it." Referring to Al, the Blues Saloon's bouncer, Andra added, "there is a fine muscular man at the door, don't know his name." "Hubba, hubba is his name," chimed in Gaye. Then she continued "I need a young man to drive away my middle aged blues," as she kicked of the song. Faye added some fine mandolin and fiddle with Ann playing some tasteful piano.

They spent the entire break signing autographs, talking to fans and not taking any time for themselves, so when they started the second set Gaye said, "would somebody go to the bathroom for me please." This was typical of the down home rapport they had with the audience the entire night. This was a very entertaining show. You MUST see these ladies live and if you want to relive most of this show, listen to their new live Alligator CD, "Live & Uppity" recorded at Wolf Trap in October 1997.

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Copyright © 1998 by Ray M. Stiles
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