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CD Review - Saffire 'Havin' the Last Word'

Saffire -- from left, Gaye Adegbalola, Andra Faye and Ann Rabson -- know how to say goodbye.
Saffire -- from left, Gaye Adegbalola, Andra Faye and Ann Rabson -- know how to say goodbye.
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Friday, March 6, 2009

SAFFIRE "Havin' the Last Word" Alligator

AFTER 25 YEARS of delighting audiences with their "uppity blues," the women known as Saffire are calling it quits with a long farewell tour and the release of a final CD that caps their recording career on an appropriately high and brassy note.

Longtime fans of the Virginia-based group won't be disappointed with "Havin' the Last Word," goodbyes notwithstanding. A 16-track collection loaded with original tunes and worthy covers, the album celebrates many of Saffire's favorite things: suggestive wordplay, rollicking New Orleans-inspired piano, topical lyrics, inspirational themes and an mix of vintage string band and country blues sounds. Each member of Saffire (founders Ann Rabson and Gaye Adegbalola, plus 17-year vet Andra Faye) plays several instruments on the album, in addition to providing lead vocals and harmonies. Yet Rabson's piano, Adegbalola's slide guitar and Faye's mandolin and fiddle are crucial to the mix, colorfully underscoring the trio's signature sound.

As always, Adegbalola's songs quickly stand out, none more so than "Bald Headed Blues," a defiant, post-chemo celebration of life. Her bandmates, meanwhile, contribute songs that trigger mood shifts tender ("Blue Lullaby") and soulful ("Since You Been Gone"). The trio also pays tribute to one of its guiding lights, Bessie Smith, via the double-entendre-laced "Kitchen Man," a vivid reminder of where Saffire was often coming from.

-- Mike Joyce

Appearing tonight at the Birchmere (703-549-7500, http://www.birchmere.com). Show starts at 7:30 p.m.


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