Women Of Saffire Up And Touring Again

The Uppity Blues Women will tour the East Coast, Midwest and Norway over the next several months.

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 23–24; 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