Album: Ani Difranco, Which Side Are You On? (Righteous Babe)
Ani DiFranco's first album in three years finds the self-proclaimed Righteous Babe in feisty, thoughtful form, her political ardour undimmed despite a discernibly increased interest in the effects of ageing, particularly the way it deepens and matures the once callow emotions of love and devotion.
Unlike some songwriters who hide behind over-elaborate metaphor and allusion, DiFranco is sometimes alarmingly straight-spoken, with a journalist's desire to convey the facts (and opinions) as clearly as possible: "Every time I open my mouth, I take off my clothes, and run frostbitten from being exposed," as she explains in the opening "Life Boat". So it's no surprise to find her covering that most direct and confrontational of protest anthems, "Which Side Are You On?", where the presence of 92-year-old Pete Seeger's banjo alongside the brass of youthful New Orleans marching-band musicians makes an explicit point about the perennial persistence of certain political issues. As if to emphasise this point, Di Franco updates the lyric with extra verses of her own, using references to things like "the curse of Reaganomics" to re-direct the titular query at a new president.
Her disappointment that Obama hasn't yet turned out to be FDR Mk 2 is also apparent in "J", a reflection on hope and stagnation in her Louisiana homeland, initially prompted by her observation of the disparity between her personal experience of drugs with that endlessly relayed on TV, in news and drama shows alike. The track's spooky swirl of keyboards and guitars is echoed later in "Amendment", where she revives the dormant issue of the Equal Rights Amendment, further demanding that abortion be enshrined as a right. While recognising pro-lifers' right to raise their children as they see fit, she adds, "Don't treat all women as if they are your children".
Sexuality is more directly addressed in "Promiscuity", which she characterises as a kind of "research and development" process. "How you gonna know what you need and you like, till you been around the block a few times on your bike?" she asks, an attitude that leads to the increased regard for age and experience evident in songs such as "Unworry", "Mariachi" and "Albacore".
Set to gentle, springy guitar chording over loping double bass, the latter song expresses her surprise at finding love later in life, her delight adroitly summarised in the acknowledgement that, "When I am next to you, I am more me." As an expression of devotion, it's challenged here only by "Hearse", which deals dextrously with the difficult balancing act of juggling the prospects of both love and death. "I don't wanna strive for nothing any more," she admits. "I will follow you into the next world like a dog running after a hearse." It's such a strange image, at once tragic and comic, sad yet uplifting, that one's heart can't help but swell with emotion, which, for all her righteousness, is something one never expected from a polemicist as direct and unvarnished as Ani DiFranco.
DOWNLOAD THIS Which Side Are You On?; Life Boat; Hearse; Albacore; J
Film Leonardo DiCaprio hunts Tom Hardy
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Sabrina Corgatelli: US hunting tourist posts picture of herself with dead giraffe after Cecil the lion outrage
- 2 Dutch King Willem-Alexander declares the end of the welfare state
- 3 A-level results 2015: UK exam board OCR admits it 'estimates' hundreds of pupils' grades after papers 'go missing'
- 4 Giant Minion terrorises drivers in Ireland as 40ft inflatable blocks busy Dublin road
- 5 'Cool kids' can go on to become losers in later life, study finds
Artist Jamie McCartney: How The Great Wall of Vagina is a stand against 'body fascism'
Cilla Black: Her 12 best songs, from 'Anyone Who Had a Heart' to 'You're My World'
Michael B Jordan and Kate Mara handle excruciatingly awkward and offensive interview questions like pros
Game of Thrones season 6: 'A Song of Ice and Fire should be finished by 1998,' said George R. R. Martin, 'but don't hold your breath'
Sherlock season 4: Benedict Cumberbatch will be 'a lot less brattish' in Victorian special
Is Britain really full up? Are migrants taking our jobs? Leading academic answers the most common anti-immigration claims
Calais Migrant Crisis: Deputy Mayor of Calais labels Cameron's use of 'swarm' as 'racist' and 'ignorant'
Chris Leslie: Jeremy Corbyn's anti-austerity agenda will harm the poor, says Labour shadow Chancellor
Landlords renting properties to illegal immigrants to face up to five years in prison
While we fixate on Calais, the Home Office is quietly deporting dozens of migrants on 'ghost flights'
Calais crisis: The seven claims made about the migrants - and the reality