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To the Teeth by Ani DiFranco
Reviewed by Steve Theaker

    Ani DiFranco's newest release on her label, Righteous Babe Records, is a little bit of everything. It rocks, it's jazzy, it raps,...it's Ani. In fact it satisfies the soul as well as the ear. You will find it lavish with rich, varied instrumentation, haunting in its melodic character and accompanied by her trademark - poignant and unashamedly blunt lyrics. This release is pure studio from Buffalo, Austin and New Orleans but fluidly mastered to seem like a ballad for the first six songs.
    To the Teeth, the title track, takes aim at society's "cultural death wish" manifested in the politics of and the policy towards weapons. Pleading with lyrics and music to open our eyes to the causes of this carnage, Ani metaphorically incites us to open fire on Hollywood, the corporate bastions of MTV and the major networks, the NRA and "each weapons manufacturer while he's giving head to some republican senator." Yet in the end, the lyrics surrender to the notion of moving to Canada, where there at least, there is a chance of dying of old age.
    Although this may sound blasphemous to an Ani groupie, "Going Once" is reminiscent of an early Joni Mitchell tune replete with horns aplenty by Irvin Mayfield and Mark Mullins. The song describes a strong willed, naďve girl who blazes through life only to suddenly look around and back. Whether this is autobiographical or a masterful songwriter's acute perception of the human story is for you to determine.
    In "Hello Birmingham," the influence of piano and organ by band member, Julie Wolf, brings balance, tempo and a haunting sobriety. This song will simultaneously boil your flesh with goose bumps and sting your eyes with grief. Ani is no stranger to political statement. Her lyrical embrace of your mind's eye makes you an unwilling witness to the murder of a pro-choice obstetrician in Buffalo. This song was ably performed by Ani at the Bushnell but the compact disc version is outstanding.
    When I watched this fine band on stage at the Bushnell, as I sat amid an undulating sea of Generation X, I left with mixed feelings about the quality of the music. With this release, any ambivalence regarding the direction Ani and her band have taken has evaporated. The band is tight and talented and they will only improve and continue to impress. Listen for yourself, and critically, to the remaining ten songs on this new album and you should agree that any categorization, be it edgy folk or rock, falls short. The Righteous Babe has staying power in her own right.

Copyright©WWUH: January/February Program Guide, 2000

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