Ani gets lucky with No. 13
By LISA BRUNO
Scene Music Critic
Over the past ten years, Ani Difranco has released 13 self-produced albums on her label, Righteous Babe Records. Having her own label affords Ani the opportunity to do what she wants the way she wants it. Fans reap the ultimate benefits of this because Ani always comes with something new, something fresh and something real.
One is driven then to the question, is there anything Ani can't do? Probably not and she proves this on her third —yes, third — release of 1999, To The Teeth. On these 13 tracks, Ani plays electric, acoustic guitar, bass, drums, piano and banjo. With her trademark songwriting, Ani continues to amaze fans and critics alike with her lyrical wizardry.
To The Teeth offers an eclectic mix of sounds and lyrics. In the anticipated Ani style, she goes from social awareness to replay-worthy poetically driven songs. Some of the songs may prove unsuitable to first time Ani listeners and perhaps even longtime fans. The Ani of yesterday, with just her guitar guiding her through each song, has taken second stage. This album continues on the musically experimental path started in Little Plastic Castle, released in 1998, and Up Up Up Up Up Up, released in 1999. As the tracks continue on this record, they become more daring and innovative. When the play button is pressed, watch out because something great and unexpected lies within the next song.
Ani's albums historically have a social message, but she masks them in great music and even better lyrics. Out of nowhere listeners will begin singing along to lyrics in To The Teeth like, "Look at where the profits are. That's how you'll find the source of the big lie that you and I both know so well. In the time it takes this cultural death wish to run its course, they'll make a pretty penny."
Most of this record was recorded in Ani's hometown of Buffalo, NY and the comfort of being home is definitely felt here. There is also an immeasurable energy and confidence on To The Teeth. It is especially evident in "The Arrivals Gate," which is reminiscent of Little Plastic Castle, but even better. Some of the more daring tracks include "Back Back Back" and "Swing." These songs reveal a funkier side to Ani, complete with James Brown sideman Marceo Parker on saxophone and Corey Parker rapping in "Swing."
Ani fans longing for her poetic songs of records past will be more than satisfied with lyrics like, "Two people pulled over on the same night to look up at the stars. They both found their wheels were spinning in a soft shoulder when they both got back into their cars and they missed fate's appointed rendezvous." This poetic vibe continues in "Providence" which features the Artist (formerly known as Prince). This song expresses a situation that many people have been in, "It's a narrow margin. Just room enough for regret in the inch and a half between hey, how ya been? And can I kiss you yet?"
As always, Ani brings her unabashed talent to this latest release. Purchasing To The Teeth is more like an investment in great music. This album is truly a lucky thirteenth for Ani and listeners will collectively remark, "Bring on number 14!"
All Scene Stories for Tuesday, February 1, 2000