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This article by Nicole Plett was prepared for the March 19, 2003 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
Ani DiFranco’s Big Sound
It has been a little more than a decade since the diminutive
Ani DiFranco, who still calls herself "the Little Folksinger,"
made a big impression on the cookie-cutter music industry. Now known
as America’s most successful independent musician, DiFranco built
her reputation herself — by not playing by the rules.
The icon of independence began in the music business as a teenager
in the mid-1980s, playing in the bars of Buffalo, New York. Against
all odds, with nothing more than an acoustic guitar, her powerhouse
voice, and an ever-expanding community of supportive friends and fans,
she built her act and her Righteous Babe record label into an international
DiFranco comes to the Patriots Theater of the Trenton War Memorial
on Saturday, March 22, at 8 p.m., with a signature solo acoustic show.
DiFranco has divested her tour, for the time being, of her rousing
six-piece band, the lineup featured on her 2001 live album "So
Much Shouting, So Much Laughter." Returning to her brave new roots,
her solo show last year at Carnegie Hall was described by writer James
Campion as a "one-woman, nitroglycerine-meets-match acoustic performance…
nothing short of a pristine musical tour de force."
Her current tour includes appearances on Wednesday, March 19, at NJPAC
in Newark; and on Friday, March 21, for a sold-out show at Red Bank’s
Count Basie Theater. In August, she will be back in the area for the
August 24 Philadelphia Folk Festival.215-242-0150 www.folkfest.org
DiFranco’s Trenton appearance supports the March 11
release of "Evolve," her latest batch of thought-provoking,
deeply personal songs from Righteous Babe Records. This is DiFranco’s
15th release on the label she created for her 1990 recording debut.
Its other artists currently include Bitch and Animal, Drums & Tuba,
Sara Lee, Arto Lindsay, Utah Phillips, Sekou Sundiata, and Kurt Swinghammer.
DiFranco describes "Evolve" as "the definitive musical
statement from the Little Folksinger and her five-piece band … touching
on everything from folk and funk to Latin and jazz."
Following early training as a dancer, DiFranco began her music making
in her teens in the bars of Buffalo, New York. Her funny, funky, intimate
gigs stunned listeners with her musicianship and her unflinching observations
about the state of her world. Her career has been dedicated to criss-crossing
the U.S. on a virtual non-stop tour, she now plays Europe, Australia,
and Japan on a regular basis.
DiFranco brought new energy to the singer-songwriter scene with songs
in which art and politics are inseparable. She’s an up-front feminist
who has lent her time and talents to causes that include opposing
the death penalty, upholding women’s reproductive rights, preserving
historic buildings in her hometown, and promoting gay rights.
Although the new album "Evolve" showcases the band, DiFranco’s
recent live shows have been solo. Although she learned a lot from
touring with the band, it was also distracting and exhausting. So
she reverted to her origins as a lone folksinger.
"I got to the point where I was weary of thinking about what five
other people should be doing all the time, and I just wanted to play,"
she says. "And though I have lost the company of some dear friends,
I feel in a way that I have myself back, and my work has become much
more gratifying to me as a result."
"DiFranco continues to be relevant because, in this apocalyptic
age when the enemy is so clearly us, we need a courageous, creative
voice to point out that frightening fact," writes the Cleveland
Free Times. "We need risk-taking artists like DiFranco to hold
the mirror of poetry in front of us, forcing us to confront our fears
and our wins of commission and omission. Only then can change happen."
Memorial Drive, Trenton, 609-984-8400. The indie music phenomenon.
$32 & $35. Saturday, March 22, 8 p.m.<
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