After 25 years, constant traveling, nine albums, and various solo projects, Saffire are calling it quits with one last tour and Havin’ the Last Word, a collection of new tunes, covers of favorites, and songs that define their dissolution. It sounds as though it’s a happy-sad decision, gratified for all the success and love accrued from their fans, but pleased for future blues via other partnerships and collaborations that can now be achieved individually. Though all will pursue solo careers — Ann Rabson is already firmly established — it is this magical and timeless combination of spirit, focused same-page concept, and great musicianship that has served Saffire very well far beyond most bands. This final effort showcases individual vocal tracks, as if the group members are already preparing for going out on their own, as there’s very little group harmonizing. Individual efforts notwithstanding, the group still convenes musically on common ground, especially when Rabson plays piano, Gaye Adegbalola jams on the slide guitar or harmonica, and Andra Faye offers her musings on fiddle, mandolin, or upright bass. Of the three, Faye is the group member who may benefit most by being on her own, as she is clearly the strongest, brightest, and most angelic, a perfect singer and versatile instrumentalist as heard on her countryish “Blue Lullaby” or Deanna Bogart‘s cautionary tale “I’m Growing Older.” Her anti-fashion statement “Too Much Butt” is an anthem for all plus-size women who also are beautiful, and her tell-tale story of plans laid waste due to commercial airlines during the stranded blues “Walkin’ Home to You” is a tune everyone can relate to in light of anticipating being back with a significant other.
Adegbalola‘s song of cancer survival and chemotherapy, “Bald Headed Blues,” makes light of lost follicles in saying there’s no need to hide it, making references to splitting hairs, a close shave, and a serious instead of veritable bad hair day. Her self-examination during “I Can Do Bad All by Myself” might very well be the kind of song that speaks to all good girls on the brink of messing around. She’s also good at talking blues over the slide guitar on “Bald Eagle” — her new pet! Rabson‘s boogie-woogie bloodlines are always a treat to revel in, and are incorporated in her songwriting with Georgia blues songbird E.G. Kight, as evidenced on the boxcar-styled “Travelin’ at the Speed of Love” or the slow country blues and epilogue tune for the group, “The Bad Times.” Always a marvel at the piano, Rabson adopts a distinct mood parallel to Professor Longhair for the outstanding “Haste Makes Waste,” built on the venerable adage tacked onto the attitude of a cheater, while her downhearted “Locked Up” is melancholy and hopeless, yet fighting to break out of the doldrums with her indefatigable spirit. “Going Down to the River” evinces the spirit of Bonnie Raitt, while old-time traditional-type jazz songs like the sweet “Kitchen Man” (written by Andy Razaf) and the song of confrontation at the crossroads “Somebody’s Gotta Give” make you wish Saffire would have mined this golden vintage vein a bit more. If this is the last hurrah for these three uniquely talented and popular women, a great big salute is in order, including a hearty recommendation to pick up this recording, a well-marinated cherry on top of a tasty chocolate sundae.