Sunday, October 14, 2012

Ani DiFranco, still righteous after all these years

The songstress brings her fusion of folk, soul, jazz, and spoken word to The Ritz tonight.

Posted By on Sun, Oct 14, 2012 at 11:55 PM

Though singer-songwriter Ani DiFranco, known for her fierce activism and strong political views, has settled down and started a family in recent years, it certainly hasn't quashed her fervor and passion for creating positive change through her music.

She's especially excited about this week's string of gigs throughout Florida, starting with a show at The Ritz Ybor tomorrow night -- Tues., Oct. 16, just weeks before the impending election. "There's a lot going on out there around the country. And a lot is certainly going on in Florida," said DiFranco, who recently toured the Midwest, signing up new voters along the way, including in fellow pivotal swing state Ohio. "I just hope to inspire people to vote and at least fulfill their civic duty."

Here in the Sunshine State, the worrisome Amendment 6 proposes a ban on state spending on abortions, restricts a woman's freedom of choice in other ways, and clashes with DiFranco's feminist ideals. "The anti-woman, anti-choice army is out there," she said, "and they don't sleep, so we can't either."

¿Which Side Are You On?, DiFranco’s most recent album, released this past January — her first in over three years, with 11 new songs centered around a radically reworked rendition of its namesake, a tune made famous by Pete Seeger — chronicles her continuing political journey. “I’m testing deeper waters with the political songs on this album,” DiFranco said in a press release. “I feel a little bit frustrated, politically desperate… I guess I’ve been pushing my own boundaries of politics and art. Seeing what people have the ears to listen to. How big is my mouth? What can I get out of it successfully?”

And depending on the outcome of this year’s election, DiFranco can’t help but wonder what will happen if incumbent President Barack Obama loses and Republican Mitt Romney takes office. “What kind of songs will I want to play then? I don’t even know what kind of songs I’ll be able to play,” she said.

Having lived in New Orleans with her husband and daughter for several years now, DiFranco relied heavily upon her adoptive city for her latest release. Among the many guest artists called in to play were Ivan and Cyril Neville — part of the Big Easy’s first family of music, the Neville Brothers — as well as a host of New Orleans-based horn players known for their work with Galactic, Bonerama, and The Rebirth Brass Band. This decision to fully embrace the influence of New Orleans was a no-brainer. “When you’re in New Orleans, the music is so pervasive,” she said. “Unless you’re hiding under a hole, it’s going to get under your skin … It’s a deep, powerful, vibrant place.”

But she scales down the sound for her current tour, performing solo on her upcoming Florida run. “It’ll just be me abusing my guitar and shooting the shit with the audience,” she said. “It’ll be cool to strip it down. Without a band behind me, there will be more pressure on me on stage. I won’t be able to just shake my booty or play a riff.”

After more than 20 years operating independently in the music business, the Grammy-winning artist and Buffalo, NY native — the self-described “Little Folksinger” — has earned her reputation as an indie label queen. She continues to self-release her music on the ever-growing Righteous Babe Records. Over the years, her style has eschewed genres, bringing together elements of folk, funk, soul, jazz, and spoken word since she first began recording in 1990.

Ani DiFranco will be performing at The Ritz in Ybor City tomorrow night. Tickets are $35. Visit The Ritz website for more information.

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