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The griot is a member of a class of traveling poets, musicians, and storytellers who maintain a tradition of oral in parts of West Africa; and in terms of blues musicians like Gaye Adegbalola and the recent project from Eric Bibb, it means lots of contemporary politics too. Some political albums are more indirect or cleverly positioned. Gaye, though, chooses to basically hit us with a 2 x 4. She has the long-term view and life experience to qualify her for this role. She was a founding member of the 25-year-running Saffire – The Uppity Blues Women, she is a mother, a BMA winner and former Virginia State Teacher of the Year. At 74, she is intent of keeping history alive, delivering empowering message, sending hope to the heartbroken and keeping her signature humor intact.
Additionally, Adegbalola provides the lyrics to each song in the booklet and themes beyond those above include female genital mutilation (FGM), mental illness, poverty, technology, old age, vanity and the usual subjects of love, freedom and hope. All songs are hers with exception of three where she nods to other writers. “HOPE: (There is Always) One More Time” is from Doc Pomus, “SEX: Need a Little Sugar in My Bowl” is from Bessie Smith and “BETRAYAL: Jelly Bean Blues” owes to Ma Rainey.
Adegbalola plays acoustic guitar, slide guitar and harmonica and is joined by multi-instrumentalist Jeff Covert, who plays multiple guitars, bass, keys, and drums—basically whatever’s needed. Other musicians help on select tracks, some which feature a horn section. The music is gritty and old school, not too different from Saffire as Adegbalola shifts from spoke word, to rap and trademark raspy vocals, depending on the tune.