sun 16/06/2024

Album: Ani DiFranco - Unprecedented Sh!t | reviews, news & interviews

Album: Ani DiFranco - Unprecedented Sh!t

Album: Ani DiFranco - Unprecedented Sh!t

Tough, uncompromising, unflinching

An album for our times

Having moved out of her mother’s apartment aged 15 to become “an emancipated minor” and set up her own record label, Righteous Babe, just four years later, every step of Ani DiFranco’s life has been determinedly – some might say ferociously – independent. Alt-folk, alt-rock – the labels don’t matter. What counts is her commitment and steadfastness during the course of a career that’s seen her on the righteous side of so many battles, in the US and beyond.

She raised $47,500 to enable New Orleans musicians to replace their lost instruments after Hurricane Katrina. She’s worked with the Guthrie Foundation and played at Pete Seeger’s 90th birthday concert at Madison Square Garden, connections which themselves speak volumes. Her second children’s book, Show Up and Vote, is due in August. A neat segue to the title of her new album and the tough issues with which it engages.

Unprecedented Sh!t is her 23rd opus, gathering songs written between 2011 and 2022 which have never quite found a place on an album. Collected here, “I believe there is a rhyme and a reason as to why these songs have come together in this way now and I want people to experience this album as a journey, a piece of art, without being influenced by a cacophony of surrounding narratives..” As to the title: “We find ourselves in unprecedented times in many ways, faced with unprecedented challenges. So our responses to them and our discourse around them, need to rise to that level.”

Every song is a response to the state of the world. Textures are paired down, DiFranco’s voice very much to the fore, supported by her distinctive guitar playing and lots of percussion. The title track is all dirty guitar and distortion, grungy, angry and angst-ridden, with DiFranco providing her own backing vocal interpolations which turn playful as she segues into the Sprechgesang of “New Bible”, all blues guitar.

“Boots of a Solider” is whimsical yet poignant, imagining the stories her old army boots could tell. But most deal with weightier issues – imprisonment, pollution, exploitation, abortion. And inevitably, Covid which gave DiFranco “permission to stay home with my family, so it was an incredible gift on that level. It was also a gift to the planet, for our species to shut up and sit down for a minute.” A brief instrumental “Interlude” precedes the closing track, “The Knowing”, an affirmation of selfhood and the power of identity.

On first encounter I wasn’t keen, but Unprecedented Sh!t grows on you and gets under your skin. It can be a tough listen, but then we live in tough times.

Liz Thomson's website

rating

Editor Rating: 
4
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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