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Ani DiFranco
Out Now on Righteous Babe

Every new album from singer/songwriter/guitarist Ani DiFranco gives listeners a reason to get excited about music all over again, and her latest, Reprieve, is certainly no exception. Across 12 tracks, DiFranco ignites more of her signature blend of poetry, politics and musicianship.

Ani and touring bassist Todd Sickafoose are the only two players on the new album— something you’d never guess from it’s rich and detailed sound. In addition to the usual array of acoustic and electric guitars for which she is justly noted, Ani can be heard on keyboards, drums, and other instruments, while Todd contributes not only bass but wurlitzer, pump organ, piano and "fakey-bakey" trumpet and strings (then there’s the bicycle pump and other found sounds and sound effects orchestrated by Ani).

The album was tracked in her New Orleans studio in early 2005 during a break in her usually heavy touring schedule. Forced to leave the master recordings behind when she evacuated before Hurricane Katrina, she drove back into the city to retrieve them just three days after the levees broke. From there she headed back to overdub in her hometown of Buffalo with whatever instruments happened to be on hand, chief among them a vintage omnichord and a modern “cheesy synthesizer” (which entailed “trying to use uncool sounds in cool ways,” as she puts it).

The final mixing took place back in New Orleans “where, after the power came on, I had access to all kinds of distortion, basically,” she says with a laugh, “and the ears of [recording engineer] Mike [Napolitano], who’s a great mixer and gave me great advice.”
Between the forced evacuation and the time off on the road, Ani found herself concentrating on the process of recording to a degree she had never done before, and the resulting album is the clearest demonstration yet of her talents as a producer. Unconstrained by the pressures of touring, she was able to take her time with the record, and the end result is an overall sound that is as clear and succinct as her lyrics have always been.

While not intended to be taken as a concept album in any way, the songs on Reprieve do provide a cohesive picture of what’s been on Ani’s mind lately during turbulent times on the personal, cultural, and global front. From the opening encounter in “Hypnotized” to the call to action against patriarchy in the spoken-word title track to the conflict between “the house of conformity” and the ability to make art in the final song, “Shroud,” this is classic Ani territory. It’s a place where individual songs can’t be easily separated into “personal” and “political” categories, because those concerns inevitably overlap in complex and nuanced ways.

Ani describes Reprieve as rooted in the Crescent City, and it so happens that there’s a single direct reference to that town in the album’s centerpiece, “Millennium Theater.” The line “New Orleans bides her time” in the middle of this scathing critique of the current Republican regime might sound like a response to Hurricane Katrina, but in fact the song was written well before the disaster that has devastated the city, about a crisis that took no one but the presidential administration by surprise. Like just about everything else on Reprieve, “Millennium Theater” finds Ani speaking her mind, singing from
her heart, and playing music like her life—like all of our lives—depended on it.


“In a nutshell, Miss DiFranco continues to amaze us. Just when you think she’s going to take a break, she puts out something else—something different, something new, with even cooler packaging.” — Washington Times
“A willingness to speak (and sing) her mind in an era when too many folkrockers hew to safety and blandness.” — Cape Cod Times (Hyannis, MA)
“She approaches her art with an unflinching honesty, and though she’s not afraid to delve into sorrow and emotional distress, her music is also about resiliency and redemption.” — Chuck Myers, Chicago Tribune


  FEATURE in Rolling Stone

Last summer, prolific folk singer Ani DiFranco had just begun to record her latest album in her New Orleans apartment when Hurricane Katrina began closing in. Sent packing, DiFranco gathered up the initial recordings and evacuated to her other home, in Buffalo, New York, and watched with the rest of the country as the Crescent City was devastated.

Shaken by the storm and its terrible aftermath, DiFranco has put together Reprieve, an unflinchingly political album, due in August, that expresses her frustration, sadness and sense of displacement. The way she tells it, after Katrina DiFranco could not wait to return to New Orleans, which she did as soon as possible. The serene, crisp sound of Reprieve’s thirteensong cycle sonically reflects her travels over the past year.

In New Orleans, producer Mike Napolitano had taken a loose approach, laying down tape of DiFranco and bassist Todd Sickafoose performing. “Mike, my sweetie, recorded Todd and I just playing live in my old apartment,” she explains. “And then the wind picked up and all the shit hit the fan, and New Orleans turned into a war zone. I ended up in Buffalo, stranded for a few months with a cheesy synthesizer and an Omnichord.” So, like everyone displaced by the storm, DiFranco improvised.

“I swear to God,” she says, “I brought all my cool stuff down, and then I couldn’t get back to it. So I fleshed out the record, overdubbing almost entirely on this cheesy synthesizer. It was a challenge, like, ‘Two sticks, rub them together and see if you can make a fire.’ It was like trying to make cool sounds out of something that's inherently not.”

With DiFranco’s voice front and center—buoyed by lush piano, pump organ and acoustic guitar—Reprieve flows, creating something organic from its live music and the synthesized samples. “From the beginning, I was thinking of building segues,” she says, “not having it just be a collection of songs but a journey, somewhat seamless.”

But the soothing soundscape does little to mask the political convictions underlying some of the songs.

“This record, it really speaks of this time and place: New Orleans, 2006,” DiFranco says. “Like ‘Millennium Theater’ ends with the line ‘New Orleans bides her time.’ That song is a rant about the insanity of the spectacle, as opposed to what’s really happening underneath. It was written and recorded months before the storm hit. So I would say it’s, like, ‘divinely prophetic’—if we all didn’t know that shit was coming. Including the Levee Board. Including FEMA. Including the government.

“I think it’s funny how easily duped we are by the propaganda machine these days,” she continues. “We’re still connecting Iraq with 9/11, even though that’s a complete fallacy. And it’s horrific down here for many, many people, and people are saying, ‘Katrina, yeah, that was a big one.’ . . . But the flooding—that was the Levee Board. That was the pump stations. That was FEMA. That was the local, state and national government. That was human neglect, racism, incompetence and greed.”

As she prepares to release the album, DiFranco will once again hit the road with a stripped-down band for a series of intimate dates. While an Ani DiFranco tour is not an unusual event—she is constantly on the go—last year, she discovered she had tendonitis and was told by doctors that if she toured or played guitar she’d risk permanent damage. DiFranco, however, is looking forward to the trek, which includes a stop at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. “It’s been weird for me to be quiet and still to begin with,” she says. “So it will feel good to get back in the saddle.”

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Ani DiFranco is a songwriter, vocalist and guitarist perpetually on the move. From the raw “folk punk” of her early albums through the jazz/funk grooves she created during her years touring with a five-piece band to the twists and turns of her current work as a solo artist, Ani’s restless creativity continually leads her and her
listeners into ever more exciting territory.

Born in Buffalo, New York, DiFranco was already singing and playing guitar in public before she was old enough to drive. As a teenager, the poems she’d been writing in “long skinny columns” soon evolved into lyrics, and music became a way for the teenager to talk about the things that mattered most to her: the power
dynamics of romantic entanglements, the fragmentation of her family, the choices she watched her friends making, and the state of life in her hometown and her country.

The early 1990s brought a temporary relocation to New York and classes in poetry and politics at the New School, but her real education came on weekends, as she hit the road with increasing frequency and growing confidence, developing her signature percussive finger picking and dynamic range in order to grab and hold the attention of noisy bar crowds. Even the need to fill time while re-tuning became an opportunity to improvise off-the-cuff stories about whatever had happened during the course of her day, which became yet another hallmark of her style. After just about every one of her funny, outspoken, intimate gigs, she’d leave behind a fresh batch of converts eager to spread the word to everyone they knew, via cassettes at first and
then CDs. Rather than waiting for some A&R bigwig to sign her, Ani simply created her own record label, Righteous Babe, eventually turning down legions of potential deals when she realized they had nothing to offer that she couldn’t provide herself. In the process, the born performer began to learn her way around the recording studio, too, gradually developing her own innovative means to convey the spontaneity, intensity and wit of her live concerts on disc.

Nearly a decade and a half of hard work, glowing word of mouth, and relentless touring later, the self-described “Little Folksinger” is packing joints like Carnegie Hall and amphitheaters around the world, though she still makes each venue she plays feel as cozy as a living room and as sweaty as a neighborhood dive. That DIY label of hers, still based in Buffalo (with a European branch based in London), has now released so
many of Ani’s CDs that they’ve lost count and about a dozen more by an eclectic hand-picked roster of artists whose music is as unclassifiable and unpredictable as hers.

But that’s only part of the story. Over the years, Ani has swapped album appearances with Prince and Maceo Parker, produced recordings by Dan Bern and Janis Ian, performed orchestral versions of her compositions with the Buffalo Philharmonic, helped find wholly new fans for the songs of Woody Guthrie and the stories of Utah Phillips, had her own tunes covered by the likes of Dave Matthews, and Chuck D, recorded duets with both John Gorka and Jackie Chan, and inspired countless other musicians to rewrite
the rules of the recording industry by striving for self-sufficiency and refusing to allow art to be subsumed by cold commerce. Through her Righteous Babe Foundation, she’s been able to support grassroots cultural and political organizations around the country, and she has repeatedly lent her time and her voice to such diverse
pursuits as opposing the death penalty, upholding women’s reproductive rights, promoting queer visibility, and preserving historic buildings back in Buffalo (including a long-neglected church currently being transformed into the new headquarters of Righteous Babe).

Ani DiFranco’s career has been full of surprises – for her, and for the rest of us – and she’s no stranger to change, both sudden and slow. But some things remain unchanged, like her commitment to speaking the truth, as she sees it, without fear or concession. Bruce Cockburn recently observed in Performing Songwriter that Ani considers it part of her job description, “to try and reflect real life in [her] songs. The life of the streets; the life of nations; the lives of people coping with power or its absence, looking for joy through the loneliness and pain and the complexities of relationships; the life of the spirit.

All these are the stuff of human experience, and human experience is what we all share.” She does so with two basic instruments, both of which are also constants in her ever-evolving world: her trusty guitar and her unforgettable voice. Vanity Fair describes the latter as, “astonishing.… coolly, permanently urgent, tugging at
the sleeve or close at the ear, like the murmur of a lover who knows every last secret and decides to stay.”


What the Press have to say.....

“In her singular style, DiFranco muses and strikes with poignancy, humor and political correctness.”

“…Ms. DiFranco radiates skill and self-confidence, quick-strumming her guitar and pouring out words in a voice
that can be bright or tart, affectionate or testy.” - NEW YORK TIMES

“For DiFranco, her unfettered self-expression is more humanism than feminism. Although her first toehold was
in the women’s folk market, she’s become an inspiration for anyone who wants to follow dreams or try to change
the world a few ticks.” - BOSTON PHOENIX

“From the prolific recordings and near non-stop touring to the guiding of Righteous Babe Records and outspoken
political activism, Ani is a heroine on many fronts to many people. What she creates through unflinchingly honest
explorations of both her inner and outer worlds is no less than stunning again and again as she molds minute, seemingly mundane, slivers of life into sublime poetry. Bold as it may be to say, Ani at her best is on par with the masters of the form.” - VELVET PARK MAGAZINE

“From political rage to heartache to political rage to existential ennui – did I mention political rage? - her smart
and insightful lyrics always give me the words I can neverseem to find on my own.” - DVDVERDICT.COM

“Some musicians inspire love and laughter. Some evoke applause, standing ovations or mosh pits. If Ani DiFranco were so inclined, she could cause a riot.” - IOWA STATE DAILY

“Most significant of all, perhaps, DiFranco has maintained a rebel spirit and a sense of her work as political in the deepest possible sense – as a rallying point for dreams of a better, more just America. Over and over, in her own work and that of the artists she promotes, she’s proven that this political dimension can coexist with sophisticated, edgy music - and that cool can have a soul.” - INDIE CULTURE 2004

“To call her prolific is like calling a hurricane a pleasant summer breeze.” - WOMEN WHO ROCK

“All in all, she’s one of the most rewarding and individual artists active in this relatively fallow period.”

“She follows no musical trend but her own muse and sounds like no one. […] The woman next to me started sobbing, and the crowd roared like amplified sheet metal. I’d never seen an artist connect so deeply with an audience before, and I don’t count on ever witnessing it again.” - HIGH TIMES

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