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Ani DiFranco's All-Out `Clip'


The Stories That Come Out of Utah

By Richard Harrington
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, August 17, 1997; Page G11
The Washington Post


                         Singer, songwriter and anti-corporate tycoon Ani DiFranco has
                         built her audience the old-fashioned way: near-constant touring
                         interspersed with album releases. As her fans will attest,
                         DiFranco's bracing performances probably best define her.
                         Opening for Bob Dylan at Wolf Trap Aug. 23 and 24, she has
                         released 10 studio albums in eight years. Now she has
                         documented the vitality of her concerts.

                         Once again, DiFranco's done it on her terms: "Living in Clip" is
                         a double CD on her own record label, Righteous Babe,
                         containing 31 tracks. Reportedly produced without any
                         post-production tweaking, "Living in Clip" features a bright
                         bootleg-quality sound, though its packaging (including a
                         36-page souvenir album) is first class. DiFranco is staunchly
                         supported by drummer Andy Stochansky and bassist Sara
                         Lee, who know when to lay down slipstream grooves and
                         when to kick into overdrive, but she remains front and center in
                         both sound and spirit.

                         The album title comes from a sound engineer's joke about
                         DiFranco pushing her amplifiers to the limit -- the point studio
                         people refer to as "in clip." That image of operating close to
                         overload is an appropriate metaphor. Fearless and
                         un-self-conscious in her writing, singing and kinetic acoustic
                         guitar playing, DiFranco often seems to push the envelope of
                         frenetic performance. Yet her work has a surprisingly wide
                         emotional and dynamic range and she's blessed with a voice
                         that can reflect both quiet vulnerability and fiery resistance.

                         While her lyrics can be caustic, particularly on issues of gender
                         politics and social injustice, DiFranco also knows how to gently
                         illuminate emotional dilemmas. In the bittersweet meditation
                         "Sorry I Am," she concedes "I don't know what it is about you/
                         I just know it's not what it was." It's as concise a definition of
                         love's end as you'll ever hear. The collection's one new song,
                         "Gravel," also serves up recriminations over difficult
                         relationships, but better captures the singer's independent
                         streak: "Maybe you can keep me from ever being happy/ but
                         you're not going to keep me from having fun!"

                         DiFranco also explores the tangled terrain of the heart on the
                         slow, edgy "Adam and Eve" ("I did not design the game/ I did
                         not name the stakes/ I just happen to like apples/ and I am not
                         afraid of snakes").

                         Anger over social inequities informs such songs as "Every State
                         Line" and "Not So Soft." In "Willing to Fight," DiFranco
                         suggests those who don't notice what's happening in the world
                         around them "walk outside to where the neighborhood
                         changes." And in the only public performance of the
                         loop-driven "Hide and Seek," DiFranco recounts the terrors of
                         a young girl long abused by men: "I would feel dirty and
                         ashamed/ but I wouldn't let it stop my game."

                         Such spirited resilience is also at the heart of the roiling "In and
                         Out" and "The Slant/ The Diner," "Anticipate" and "I'm No
                         Heroine." In the latter DiFranco sings:

                         I just write about what I should've done

                         I sing what I wish I could say

                         And I hope somewhere some woman hears my music

                         And it helps her through her day.

                         In the past, DiFranco's audience has consisted predominantly
                         of young women, but her work is as much humanist as feminist
                         and one suspects she will soon have a wider circle of fans.

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