"Saffire the Uppity Blues Women"|
(active 1990 to present) U.S.A.
With the release of their self-titled debut album back in 1990, Saffire - The Uppity Blues Women arrived on the blues scene at a time when male-dominated, guitar-fueled bands ruled the roost. With their infectious, acoustic blues, Saffire quickly reestablished and updated the long tradition of women blues singers begun in the 1920s by artists such as Bessie Smith and Ma Rainey.
Mixing first-rate musicianship with equal parts of sass, soul and humor, Saffire unleashed tough-as-nails originals alongside forceful versions of classic blues songs. Thanks to the hard work, undeniable talents and tough yet charming attitudes of pianist-guitarist-vocalist Ann Rabson, guitarist-harmonicist-vocalist Gaye Adegbalola and multi-instrumentalist-vocalist Andra Faye, Saffire have continued to spread their message wide and far.
Now, with their new CD, Ain't Gonna Hush!, Saffire shout out loud and proud with a batch of 15 soulful, bluesy songs of love and lust, humor and pain. It's been almost 15 years since Ann Rabson joined forces with her guitar student, Gaye Adegbalola (a former award-winning 8th grade science teacher), and they set course for a full-time music career.
After gigging around their home town of Fredericksburg, Virginia and developing a substantial following, the two, along with the band's previous bassist, pooled their money and recorded an album. Their debut album, Saffire - The Uppity Blues Women, became one of Alligator's biggest selling releases ever.
The group quickly went from being local favorites to internationally recognized blues stars. Their follow-up albums, 1991's Hot Flash and 1992's Broad Casting, took Saffire to even greater heights. The band's subsequent tour and album, 1994's Old, New, Borrowed & Blue, brought Andra into the band full-time, and their fan base continued to swell.
Their next album, 1996's Cleaning House, featured another collection of biting, traditional-sounding yet contemporary blues, and earned the band hoards of new fans and critical acclaim. Now, with Ain't Gonna Hush! and plenty of tour dates ahead, Saffire are reaching an ever-growing audience of fans, critics and fellow musicians eager to listen to the music.
Gaye Adegbalola (guitar, harmonica and vocals)
Gaye was raised in a tight-knit Virginia family. She played flute while in high school and was chosen for the All-State band three years straight. She became a biochemical researcher, a bacteriologist and later an eighth-grade science teacher (for which she was honored as "Virginia Teacher of the Year" in 1982). After hours, Gaye and her father ran a theatre-arts group, mixing music, politics and theatre. Gaye began taking guitar lessons from Ann Rabson in 1977 and devoted more of her time to solo performing.
As she became more accomplished on the guitar, Gaye devoted more of her time to solo performing. In 1984, Gaye and Ann formed a blues duo, and Saffire - The Uppity Blues Women began to take form. In 1990 Gaye received a W.C. Handy Award for Song Of The Year, for her composition The Middle Age Boogie Blues. Her solo debut, 1999's Bitter Sweet Blues, received unanimous praise from publications as diverse as Girlfriends and The Washington Post. She is the mother of industrial/gothic musician Juno Lumumba.
Andra Faye (fiddle, mandolin, acoustic bass, guitar and vocals)
Andra hails from Indianapolis, where she pursued a career as a registered nurse. She's been playing music since she was in the 6th grade, performing in a variety of eclectic local bands on guitar, violin and mandolin. She was influenced early on by Howard Armstrong and fellow Hoosier Yank Rachel.
When Ann and Gaye called on Andra to sit in on the Broad Casting sessions, she was shocked. "I was very nervous," Andra recalls. "I kept suggesting other musicians. It was as if I found a winning lottery ticket in the street and tried to give it away." Not only did she assist in the recording sessions, she joined the band as a full member in 1992.
Her proficiency on bass, fiddle, mandolin, guitar and other instruments - not to mention her vibrant stage personality - helped Saffire become the force that they are today. "It's still amazing that I get to do what I dreamed about," she says. "I guess sometimes dreams do come true."
Ann Rabson (piano, guitar, kazoo and vocals)
Ann was born in New York but grew up in Ohio. As a child she fell in love with the blues. She began studying guitar when she was 17. At the age of 18, she began playing professionally, and has continued playing the blues throughout her adult life.
In 1971 she moved herself and her daughter to Fredericksburg, Virginia. A few years later she met Gaye Adegbalola and began giving Gaye guitar lessons. In 1978 she took a job as a computer analyst by day while continuing to perform at night. In the early 1980s Ann and Gaye began to play gigs together. The day her daughter graduated from college was the day Ann quit her day job and returned to playing music full-time.
Ann was nominated for a 1995 W.C. Handy Award for Traditional Blues - Female Artist Of The Year. In 1997 she released her first solo album on Alligator, Music Makin' Mama, to great critical acclaim. And to top off her year, she was honored with three 1997 W.C. Handy Blues Award nominations, including Traditional Blues - Female Artist Of The Year, Traditional Blues - Album Of The Year, and Acoustic Blues - Album Of The Year.
In 2000, Ann received another W.C. Handy Blues Award nomination in the Female Artist of the Year category. When not touring with Saffire, Ann can often be found performing solo.