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