Saturday, March 11, 2017

Saffire - The Uppity Blues Women Old, New Borrowed & Blue

This is the 4th Alligator album by Saffire - the Uppity Blues Women, and the first in which Andra Faye McIntosh fully participates as a vocalist as well as a musician. Her presence has added to Saffire’s music by providing new instrumental voices (particularly her mandolin, and fiddle) as well as her wonderful singing. 

The program of 16 songs includes a number of songs that reflect influences and particular favorites of the trio’s members. It opens up with a rousing version of Phil Wiggins’ Fools Night Out with each taking a turn at lead and Ann Rabson pumping the piano with a New Orleans flavor. Then, Ann launches into T’aint Nobody’s Business and Andra Faye sings Sippie Wallace’s You Got to Know How, adding a nice fiddle solo. Gaye Adegbalola provides a wonderful version of Do Your Duty, a song long part of their repertoire. Listening to Gaye’s vocal, one appreciates how confident and expressive she has become after being on the road for all these years, and she sings it here with as much enthusiasm as back in the group’s early days. 

While some tunes hark back to the twenties, some are of more recent vintage. Ann does Amos Milburn’s Roll Mr. Jelly, although her piano sounds too polite for this boogie woogie blues. Highlights from Gaye include a nice reading of Johnny Ace’s The Clock, and her own Bitch With a Bad Attitude, where she tells off her no-good man, from telling the IRS he has no dependents to threatening to Bobbittize him. Andra Faye conveys similar sentiments in The Richest Guy in the Graveyard. Andra Faye closes the album with Ma Rainey’s Yonder Comes the Blues, with her mandolin accompaniment joined by Ann and Gaye on guitars with a fitting nod to the “Mother of the Blues,” ardently sang and played. 

This is the Uppity Blues Women’s finest album. Their newest member plays no small part with her strong playing that augments Ann Rabson’s own solid instrumental contributions, and strong singing is heard from all three. 

This review appeared in the December 1994-January 1995 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 197). I likely received a review copy from Alligator Records. Here is a video from Saffire's farewell tour.


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