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Cleaning House, Saffire’s fifth national release, covers the emotional spectrum of the blues idiom: from the longing to the joy, from the moan to the shout. The 17 songs get inside your head, get your body moving, and refuse to leave you alone. Gaye Adegbalola, Ann Rabson, and Andra Faye McIntosh each contribute inspired vocals, which they support with fine instrumental work on guitar, harmonica, piano, bass, mandolin, and violin. The album balances thoughtfully selected covers, both historic and contemporary, with brilliantly crafted original material. Adegbalola puts fire into “Sweet Black Angel,” bypassing B.B. King’s popular arrangement as a point of reference in favor of Lucille Bogan’s 1930 original recording. McIntosh absolutely shines on another vintage piece, Memphis Minnie’s “In My Girlish Days.” In her own “Things Are Seldom What They Seem to Be,” Rabson captures the essence of such enduring blues classics as “Trouble in Mind” and “How Long, How Long Blues.” A Saffire album would be incomplete without the humor and double-entendres for which the trio is famous, and “I Want My Money Back,” “I’d Rather Be Alone,” and “Don’t Do It” are certain to please new listeners and loyal fans. Cleaning House is a great vehicle for the Uppity Blues Women as they reclaim and celebrate the blues with a love and respect for the tradition of which they continue to be a vital part.
Saffire performs at the Birchmere Sept. 20.