The acoustic blues trio Saffire - The Uppity Blueswomen have been playing and touring together for 25 years. Rocky Ripple girl (and now Virginia woman) and mandolin player Andra Faye has been with the group (with Ann Rabson and Gaye Adegbalola) for 17 years. And after seven albums (four with Faye) and years of touring, the ladies have released their last album, Havin' the Last Word
(Alligator), and are on their farewell tour. It's been, so far, one of the cleanest breaks in music.
"Twenty-five years is a good time," Faye said. "We wanted to go out while we were still good. We all had major health scares. We're all getting older. We find out we only have so much energy."
Faye joined Saffire in 1992. In the last few years all three blueswomen have released solo albums of varying styles. No Dreamgirls
-style bickering (or any bickering for that matter) led to this decision.
"It's been such a huge, wonderful experience in our lives. A band is like a family. It's a part of your life. We will work together again in some capacity, even if it's just playing in our living rooms. You want to quit while we're ahead, while we still love each other," she said.
Faye said it has been fun trying out the new material on the road. No Indiana date has been set on this tour (hint hint, club and theater owners).
"We've always been focused in the same direction. We each have individual things we want to do. One thing I've always thought, the sum of the three of us is bigger than our individual talents. Bittersweet and a lot fun. By the time we're done, the songs from the new album will sound really cool," Faye said, laughing.
Faye said joining the group built up her confidence.
"To join a band that was already successful was a challenge. They and the audience opened up to me with open arms. Plus to have the audience hear your songs as well, my professionalism has grown by leaps and bounds. To make a living off of music seemed so far fetched. It gave me a lot of courage," she said.
Havin' the Last Word
, another gem from the ladies, includes songs addressing mature female issues ("Bald Eagle," "I'm Growing Older," "I Can Do Bad All By Myself"). Faye wrote the songs "Walkin' Home To You," "Blue Lullaby" and sings (among others) "Too Much Butt," a ditty about, well ...
"'Too Much Butt' is the hit from the album. I knew it was a hit when I heard a guy sing it. It's a lot more empowering when you sing it in the first person. When you're 50, you can't address issues like a teenager. I don't want to, either. I don't want to be a teenager again. I wouldn't wish that on my worst enemy."
Saffire is also the subject of the documentary Hot Flash
, which has been making the film festival circuit across North America. Faye said the film will be available on iTunes.
"Plus it opens up a whole new audience for us, the film crowd," she said.
Faye is also one of several artists featured on the album A Tribute to James "Yank" Rachell
(full disclosure: I wrote some liner notes on this album). Local favorites like Steve Brown, Karen Irwin and Scott Ballantine, Jerome Mills and national artists like John Sebastian and Rich Del Grosso all contributed songs.
"Yank was an incredible influence on me as a musician and a person. He treated people well. He was so gracious to all the blues players in Indianapolis. He was real generous to me. He was our blues godfather."
Faye's contribution was "My Baby's Gone," a song that she said was her favorite.
"It had such Yank energy in the vocals. Everybody talks about his mandolin playing, but I loved his singing, too. He could pull a syllable out of a song," she said.
Matthew Socey is host of
The Blues House Party for WFYI 90.1 FM in Indianapolis.