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***1/2 Ani DiFranco

LIVING IN CLIP

(Righteous Babe)

When you consider she made a name for herself touring incessantly, it's a little odd that indie-punk folksinger Ani DiFranco has waited so long in her career (nine DIY albums) to release a live CD. Whatever the reason, this two-disc set goes a long way toward capturing the exhilaration and intimacy of the kind of shows that inspired audiences on the college circuit to crown Ani queen of the underground years before the mainstream media came knocking on her door.

A 31-song collection drawn from a '96 tour, featuring the slapping bass of former Gang of Four member Sara Lee and the rousing, rhythmic backing of Ani's longtime drummer Andy Stochansky, Living in Clip offers energized versions of some familiar studio cuts, from the stripped-down "Willing To Fight" to the more rockin' "Napoleon." It's her magnetic voice and personality that take center stage, whether she's snarling on "Anticipate," scatting erotically in "Whatever," or whispering in the spoken-word "Tiptoe." Between-song banter offers glimpses of an intelligent and goofy side of DiFranco that may surprise those who have never seen her perform. And for anyone looking for a simple explanation for the Ani phenomenon, Living in Clip provides a joyful, bristling, perfectly clear answer.

-- Catherine Miner


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