Saffire The Uppity Blues Women, who hit the road again on April 13, didn't have any intention of being trailblazers when the trio formed in 1984.
"When we set out to do this, I didn't see us being as 'pioneering' as other people saw us. I just saw us playing music, and carrying on that Bessie Smith or classic-blues tradition," singer/guitarist Gaye Abegbalola said.
"And the next thing I knew, every time I read a review somewhere, it would say, 'They sure are pioneers for women.' It was like, 'Oh, I guess we are,' because everybody kept saying it."
Saffire set themselves apart and, perhaps unfortunately, remains unique by virtue of being a blues band made up entirely of women. And those women Adegbalola, singer/pianist Ann Rabson and Andra Faye McIntosh, the singer/bassist who replaced Earline Lewis are all "of a certain age," in the words of Adegbalola, 55.
The band's celebrated debut, Saffire The Uppity Blues Woman (1990), won a W.C. Handy award for Adegbalola's song "Middle Aged Blues" (RealAudio excerpt).
Of course, Saffire's inspiration is even older: the classic, female-sung blues and jazz that dates back to the 1920s.
"It just spoke to me," Adegbalola explained. "When I first heard Bessie Smith, it was like, 'Wow! Listen to this.' And of course some of the stuff is really painful. But we make sure that we don't do any of that, 'I'm a victim and I'm going to be a victim anyway, because I love you.'
"But they were such strong songs, and such independent songs. Another thing I really liked was, there is a lot of humor in the songs. I think when you become of a certain age, if you don't find some humor in the pain, you're going to have a hard row to hoe."
Saffire The Uppity Blues Women tour dates:
April 13; Berwyn, Ill.; FitzGerald’s
April 14; St. Louis, Mo.; Blueberry Hill
April 15; Kansas City, Mo.; Grand Emporium
April 21; Pittsburgh, Pa.; Buffalo Blues
April 22; Philadelphia, Pa.; Tin Angel
April 28; Tucson, Ariz., Berger Center for the Performing Arts
April 29; Scottsdale, Ariz.; Scottsdale Center for the Arts
May 1; Las Vegas, Nev.; Boulder Station Casino
June 16; Annapolis, Md.; Ram’s Head
June 17; Alexandria, Va.; The Birchmere
June 18; Lexington, Va.; Lime Kiln
June 20; Sunset Beach, N.C.; Private Event
June 2324; Sandes, Norway; Sandes Bicycle Festival
July 6; Guilderland, N.Y.; Guilderland Town Park
July 9; Rockland, Maine; North Atlantic Blues Festival
Aug. 3; Reddington Township, N.J.; Deer Path Park
Aug. 5; Germantown, N.Y.; Heritage Blues Festival
Aug. 9; Washburn, Wis.; Lake Superior Big Top Chautauqua