Righteous Babe Records, 2005
REVIEW BY: Tammy Childs
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 01/25/2005
I've had numerous opportunities to review Ani DiFranco's music, and each time I am again surprised by her intense creativity and multi-dimensional personality. I enjoy her writing, both of lyrics and of music. However, I find her vocal abilities quite limited… in fact I must admit that I do not like her voice. Still, the vocal limitations do not detract from her ability to create original and unique music.
Ani has always been known for clever lines and hard-hitting messages. She most often chooses a less-trodden path and she uses that byway to proclaim her joys, declare her hurts, and openly express her beliefs. She always speaks honestly, she seems to comprehend the human experience, and she isn't afraid to confront the unspoken without compromising the truth. Perhaps this is what has generated her diverse and eclectic following.
So strong is this woman's desire to speak with candor, she hatched her own record label, thus giving her the freedom to not only explore personal issues, but also to confront, and sometimes attack, political and social issues (i.e., the death penalty, reproductive rights, gay rights). On Knuckledown, she again uses music to question moral and social reform.
On "Studying Stones" she expounds on the softer side of her voice, and the vocals are much easier to accept. The guitar riffs are smoother and I think this reduces the harsh quality that is often found in her music. I didn't like "Parameters" but will acknowledge that the lyrics are true to form. She speaks rather than sings, thus working within her vocal restrictions, just further remaining true to her own "spirit."
On Knuckle Down she allows others to join what is usually a one (wo)man show. She includes two vocalists and a small group of musicians. Together they make each song a short story that twists and turns.
Di Franco enthusiastically puts out at least one CD a year, sometimes as many as three, and has been doing so since 1990. Her writing continues to progress and evolve as she matures. Without question, Ani DiFranco's music is a means to cleanse the soul -- mostly hers, but hey, why not do a bit of laundry yourself?