Ani DiFranco: Embracing Stability, Remaining Outspoken | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio
Filed Under:

Ani DiFranco: Embracing Stability, Remaining Outspoken

Play associated audio

For any Ani DiFranco fan amazed by her one fine album a year between 1995 and 1999, the many albums she put out in the '00s just weren't up to par. So her new record, Which Side Are You On?, comes as a surprise and a tremendous relief.

The first words out of her mouth are the most striking she's uttered on record in over a decade. The opening track, "Life Boat," is sung in the voice of a homeless woman who's pretty jaunty, considering:

Every time I open my mouth or take off my clothes
I'm raw and frostbitten from being exposed
I got red scabby hands and purple scabby feet
And you can smell me coming from halfway down the street

Clearly DiFranco wanted to get our attention and knew how. The rest of the new album goes on to be more personal, but one way it's more personal is set up by that homeless woman: It's consistently political, and so feminist it risks using the term on the title track.

That song is a rewritten version of the folk chestnut, accompanied by Pete Seeger on banjo and some horn players from New Orleans, DiFranco's current hometown. The singing is direct in a way it's seldom been recently because, as her political outspokenness signifies, she feels grounded again. Often, Which Side Are You On? could pass for a love album to her husband and producer Mike Napolitano.

DiFranco began the '00s in a marriage that ended in 2003. She ruminated and worked on her guitar playing, in addition to winning an album-packaging Grammy. In 2007 she gave birth to a daughter, and in 2009 she married Napolitano. It would be too simple to claim that domestic stability got her back on the right track. Maybe it's just that, as one new song puts it, you get happier as you get older if you do things right. In any case, I'm happy for Ani DiFranco, who's never deserved anything less.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

The Dread Factor: Why Ebola And 'Contagion' Scare Us So Much

Even just the word Ebola is kind of terrifying. Why? Hollywood has a lot to do with it. But Ebola outbreaks also have all the ingredients for what one psychologist calls the "dread factor."
NPR

Author And His Daughter Cook Around The Word And You Can Too

Kelly McEvers talks to food writer Mark Kurlansky and his daughter Talia about their cookbook International Night, based on their tradition of cooking a meal every week from a different country.
NPR

Outside Group Mirrors Successful Strategies Of Political Parties

A U.S. Senate seat is up for grabs in Iowa, and the GOP has opened 11 field offices statewide. But there's also a new team working the state, the Virginia-based group Americans for Prosperity.
NPR

Islamic State Uses Online Strategies To Get Its Message Out

Experts say the videotaped killing of journalist James Foley is part of a broader propaganda strategy by Islamist militants. The group, the Islamic State, has become a master of the video medium.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.