Bitter Sweet Blues
Sometimes the individual parts are greater than the sum of the whole. For my tastes, that is exactly the case with this Gaye Adegbalola (Ah-Deg-Ba-Lo-La) release. Adegbalola was one-third of Saffire – The Uppity Blues Women. The blues is all subjective, with the power being relative to the personal experiences and tastes of the listener; however, it’s my personal opinion that something gets lost when you throw several blues people together. To me, the blues is more effective and credible when it’s a one-to-one thing. That’s probably why I never was all that moved by some of Alligator’s earlier “Shoot Out” series of releases, in which they combined several of their very competent blues-guitar-slingers in various configurations. At first glance, these projects all seemed like a great idea, but for the most part, they all ended up sounding like bar bands to me. Not that there’s really anything wrong with bar bands. It’s just not what I want to hear on a recording. I had heard the first Saffire release years ago, and I know that they had received quite a bit of recognition from the blues community, but I never paid a whole lot of attention to them. Had I known that Adegbalola was one of them, I could’ve easily overlooked this release. Thankfully, I didn’t.
Adegbalola has built a recording that will take you on journey that includes sadness and pain as well as tenderness and hope. The opener, a cover of Keb Mo’s “She Just Wants to Dance,” swings. Her take on “Need a Little Sugar in My Bowl” is good, but it doesn’t quite measure up to the level of sexuality that oozes from Nina Simone’s version. (Not that I’d ever actually expect anyone to match Simone’s cover of that song.) “Big Ovaries” is a hoot, with ovaries of course being used as a euphemism for courage in the same manner that the size of certain components of the male reproductive system are commonly used to describe a man’s potential for bravery.
This release has just about the right blend of raw truth, spirituality and humor. There’s several upbeat numbers, including a nice take on the Smoky Robinson classic “You Really Got a Hold on Me.” There are also a couple of very serious messages about some rather sad subjects. There’s the tragedy of the long-lasting scars of incest, as described in the very stunning song “Nightmare,” or the physical abuse addressed in “You Don’t Have To Take it Like I Did.” There’s also the peace that comes with surrendering these problems in the acoustic closer, “Let Go, Let God.” Overall, this is a good solid blues record with all the right elements.
Alligator Records, Box 60234, Chicago, IL 60660; http://www.alligator.com