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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

force.

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."

Ani DiFranco, Patriots Theater at the War Memorial,

Memorial Drive, Trenton, 609-984-8400. The indie music phenomenon.

$32 & $35. Saturday, March 22, 8 p.m.<


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