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Ani DiFranco – Live At Bull Moose Music 4.17.2009

Alright, enough of me whining about being sick. I still feel like crap, but this is a music site, dammit. Let’s get to it.

***

Recorded live at Bull Moose Music, in Scarborough, ME on 2009-04-17, in celebration of Record Store Day. It was for radio broadcast, as well. It’s a short and sweet set, just Ani with Todd Sickafoose on bass.

There’s a short radio station intro, then Ani greets the crowd and goes into an excellent run-through of Alla This. Cool song (from Red Letter Year), as you all know already.

Breaking up the songs there are interview segments. First up is asking Ani about her association with Record Store Day. As a fiercely independent artist, it’s an easy question. Apparently Bull Moose Music was one of the first stores to carry her stuff, so there’s resonance there, too.

Then they play November 4, 2008.* Typically Ani, it’s politically charged and gorgeous to listen to… also quite interesting, given the current political dumpster fire in the US. So much hope in this song, and now…

Interview segment 2 asks her what she thinks of all the labels applied to her (she doesn’t think of them), and what makes a ‘red letter year’ for her (another softball question, you can imagine her answer). Then she discusses post-Katrina New Orleans, where she was living at the time.

Then she drops tuning and they “take us back a few years” to play Everest (from Up Up Up Up Up Up). Gorgeous.

Interview segment 3 she discusses what it’s like to tour with a baby, and when the new record (at the time) will be ready. Then they play one last song, Ani prefacing it by checking they were no longer on the radio, in case she needed to swear in the song…

Unworry is an excellent new tune, which appeared on the next album (2012’s ¿Which Side Are You On?). Hot damn.

In Sum:

Sonically, this EP is gorgeous. Actually pretty hard to believe it’s a live recording. The crowd must have been held rapt, so quiet while she played. The interview segments were fine (mercifully short and to the point), but it does break up the listening. Take all the talking out, and this is a 4-song EP.

I’m happy I got this (I try to collect as much Ani as I can!), and in the spirit of indie music, I got it fairly cheap too. If you come across it in the shoppes, buy with confidence!

NOTES:

NB: Tracks #4 (November 4, 2008) and #8 (Unworthy) were previously unreleased, at the time of this recording. The sleeve of the release does not indicate this.

NB: Wiki says this was limited edition, but I couldn’t find anywhere just how limited it was.

* The lyrics for November 4, 2008:

the victory was ours and you were the first to say it.
never known so many people donate time to a campaign.
and when you were elected there was a global wave of joy.
who knew a world gone mad could still go sane. 

and we poured into the streets
and we danced and we cheered
and a neighborhood was a neighborhood
like it hadn’t been in years.

all eyes meeting were filled with tears
yes we prayed you were coming and then we saw you were here
you are black you are white you are red you are blue. 
you are green you are orange with a purple and yellow hue. 

you’ve risen like a phoenix from each flame that they threw.
you’ve been everything that we’ve asked of you
oh president Obama it’s an honor just to say it, 
i used to hide my passport now i want to display it. 

thank you for our democracy through you is resurrected,
thank you for our basic decency in you is reflected
thank you America for being more than i expected

yes we can, yes we can, yes we can, yes we can, yes we can
yes we can, yes we can, yes we can, yes we can, yes we can

president Obama you do not have to be perfect,
i trust that you are a public servant,
steady as Abraham Lincoln ready as Martin Luther King
is the spirit that you bring. 

and we vow to uphold you through these tricky times.
keep you safe in our hearts and informed with our minds.
and we will uphold each other we won’t divide and attack
cause there’s no going back, no there’s no going back yes no going back

yes we can, yes we can, yes we can, yes we can, yes we can
yes we can, yes we can, yes we can, yes we can, yes we can

the victory was ours and you were the first to say it.

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Ani DiFranco, Barstool Prophets, Band, Utah Phillips

The Band – The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down

I got this CD for $5 brand new, and have enjoyed it several times already. This trip through was no different. I was surprised, then, that it’s really just a re-editing of the Rock Of Ages set (which I don’t own = oversiiiiight!). If this is true, this disc is just a cash-grab by the label. At least, that’s what the internets told me, and we all trust everything the internets has to say! But do I care, really? Nope (or at least not until I get RoA!). The music here is great (I loved the trumpets in the title track!), and the song selection and sound quality is excellent. Perfectly fine for my $5.

Barstool Prophets – Crank

Here’s a blast from the mid-90s. I was surprised to find this one still in my collection, honestly. I know for sure I would have kept it for Little Death (Oh Mary Mary), such a cool song, but the rest of this CD turned out to be quite tight, highly enjoyable rock music. It has very big sound, and the songs are very well-done. This was a great find, I really enjoyed hearing it again. I played this one a lot, in the mid-90s, so it’s rediscovering an old friend, for me now!

Ani Difranco & Utah Phillips – The Past Didn’t Go Anywhere*

Can I even begin to express how cool this CD is? And lucky thing, too, because this sort of thing could equally have gone into suckage territory – pairing music with old tapes of an old man speaking? Dicey! But this is Ani we’re talking about, and she has yet do anything even mediocre. And Phillips seems the right mix of ornery and intelligent to be a remarkable storyteller. Even the looping of his voice is OK, as it drives points home. So many great quotes here, like “…the path of least resistance is what makes the river crooked!’ There’s plenty here that’s heartfelt, poignant and, yes, wrenching too, as you get pulled effortlessly along. The music is fanastic (of course). The whole thing is a clear-eyed and brilliant master stroke. I can’t recommend this enough.

 

Purchased during the 2014 trip to Toronto with Mike. There’s a second volume to this collaboration, called Fellow Workers. I do not own it currently, but listening back to this one again made me want it!

Ani DiFranco – Dilate

Found in Toronto recently on my annual trip to the city with Mike. It was in the 3 For $10 bin. Ani has become a go-to must-buy artist for me on these trips to the city. A Tradition, of sorts.

Quite honestly, I wish I had been hip to Ani way earlier, but this is probably my jumping-in point with her catalogue, hearing Untouchable Face on a CMJ sampler CD. Over the years I’ve owned, sold off (needing cash), and re-bought most (if not all) of her records. Whenever I’m in a period where I don’t have any of her stuff in the house, I immediately go get me some. I should just keep the damn things…

… because they are so damn GOOD! This lady makes knock-out records like you make… well, most people don’t ever do anything this cool. But she keeps cranking out these excellent records, and all on her own label with her own resources and smarts. She’s not just a star, she’s an idol. Someone for us all to look up to as a paragon of wit, energy, talent, independent strength and getting it done!

Another thing to love is her guitar work, as always, and it shines here on each of these songs. Untouchable Face has so much vitriol in a pretty song it’s awesome. Napoleon soars, Shameless’ guitar and lyrics are just stellar. Oh, and then there’s Outta Me, Onto You, Superhero, Dilate, Amazing Grace, Done Wrong, Going Down, Adam & Eve and Joyful Girl. All brilliant. All of them. Seriously.

Further To Little Plastic Castle

Find out what Mike thought of the Ani Difranco album Little Plastic Castle right HERE!

Ani Difranco – Little Plastic Castle

Mike’s still branching out and away from his safe, known, hard rawk happy place by reviewing some of the stuff I bought for myself in Toronto last October. It’s healthy for Mike, and he’s lucky I sent him the stuff in the first place. 😉

Onward.

The thing with Ani is that no matter what she does, there’s always gonna be somebody who says she should have done something differently. She’s not angry enough. She’s not like she used to be. She’s gone off in some (insert criticism here) wrong direction. The music’s not melodic enough. It’s too SOMETHING, either way. Another big one is that she’s had incredible success with her own label, boldly avoiding the majors, so she must be Up To Something. Well you know what, she IS up to something. She’s making great records, on her own terms, and it’s clear she’s having a blast.

I should note, for the sake of you reading this, that I have owned and/or at least heard all of her albums, over the years. I didn’t own them all when they came out, I didn’t hear them in order, and I don’t own them all now (I wish I did). But I am a fan of hers, and am always happy to spin one of her discs.

So for all that, I can say that Little Plastic Castle is fairly typical Ani for this period of her career. It’s slick, it’s accessible, and it’s still edgy enough to make even the old-school hardcore Ani fans nod knowingly. By 1998, Ani had definitely changed, and grown, from the young woman who burst out of the gates as a superlative creative artist. And what a guitar player! So cool. By the time of this, her 8th record, she was established and seasoned and still just as capable of anything. And she was riding high on Living In Clip, a brilliant live record. The future was limitless. Wiki reminded me that the song Glass House was even nominated for a Grammy!

Wrapped in excellent and controlled music, and with lyrical blasts of an intelligence and capability many artists would kill for, this record contains moments of angry, hopeful, silly, thoughtful, adventurous, powerful and beautiful. In other words, it’s Ani. She’s not afraid to explore. She’s not afraid to laugh. She’s not afraid of, well, anything. She is just full-on.

I don’t really have favourite songs from this record, ones that I skip to or play more often. I tend to just let it play. If that sounds like a cop-out to you, from a review or write-up perspective, I can live with that. I don’t have a need to go through this, song for song. It’s all good. I’d recommend it (and the excellent 2-CD collection called Canon), if you’re looking to give her a try and can find a reasonably-priced copy. You’ll love it.

***

Cool aside: One of the drummers on this record, Andy Stochkansky, enjoyed a solo career that had some success (and should have had more). We got to see him perform in Saskatoon, at Louis’, but at first I couldn’t remember when or with whom. So I emailed James, who was also at this show, and of course he had a note of it. We saw Stochansky as an opening act for Emm Gryner, on 2002-10-23. He put on a really cool show. This would have been around the time of Five Star Motel, and the song of his that you probably know, Wonderful (It’s Superman). I remember our buddy Rowan chatting with him, as he came out into the crowd after his set. But I don’t recall what they talked about. Knowing Rowan, it could have been anything (poor Andy!). James also noted that Emm Gryner looked pretty damn hot in that dress she had on, for her portion of the show. True, true. Anyway. This isn’t much to do with Ani, anymore, so I’ll stop.

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