Which Side Are You On?
(Righteous Babe Records)
Which Side Are You On? is the latest release from Ani DiFranco. She started her own label, Righteous Babe Records, at the beginning of her career as a middle finger to major labels who courted her so heavily when she was selling her records out of her car and touring extensively on her own. Perhaps wanting to misshape her already adored image and undeniable power in song, her fanbase was already stealth. Hence her self-made label was born in the mid-90’s. She continued with her unrelenting glare and cutting perspective singing about politics, poverty and war with heavy handed romanticism, anger and idealism. Poetic takes wrapped inside hardcore acoustic punk tracks about sex, sexuality, race, government, corporate greed as well as intimate matters of the heart coupled with her intricate style of guitar play, she continued forward on the concert circuit with her own hybrid of a folk, funk, jazz, rock slightly punkish activism. DiFranco, since the beginning of the 90’s, has always maintained her self-made iconic status. Which Side Are You On? still holds the core of who she has always been–an intellectual, big hearted hurricane of emotive voracity and strength, and, in the moments of vulnerability, still a burning fire.
“Unworry” begins with delicate strings and a jazz-influenced breakdown detailing intoxication with someone and a contemplative scope of analyzing life with a wistful gaze. “Mariachi” is bright and big yet seemingly dissects a relationship’s success. Still, the political side of DiFranco carries through on songs like Pete Seeger’s “Which Side Are You On?” and “Splinter.”
One detraction the album holds is that it hearkens away from a more funk-based musical set and engages more into a folk rock drive. This is Ani DiFranco’s seventeenth solo album and for her to maybe pull off the acrylic nails and duct tape she used to thrash out against 6 strings is not such a bad thing. The hints of jazz are still prevalent, but most songs contain her characteristic voice, razor sharp lyrics and glorious straightforward folky acoustica.