[Originally published in Vp issue 7 by Kelly McCartney (2004)]
One-woman powerhouse Ani DiFranco recently released Educated Guess, her 17th CD (not counting doubles) in not quite that many years. She wrote, played, sang, recorded, and mixed every single note on this one. (Even had a few hands in the exquisite artwork.) By any measure, that’s no small feat, though simply another notch on Ani’s belt of major accomplishments. 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. To pay a tiny bit of homage, Velvetpark asked some other musicians to share their thoughts on the most righteous of all babes.
Rachael Sage: The first time I heard Ani, I was 18 and she was playing in my dorm at Stanford University. Her fingers were all taped up and she had this adorable laugh and kept cracking jokes about her “big fat butt” — she was a riveting, beautiful woman. A walking contradiction of primal intelligence and joyous disillusionment, she was one hell of a guitarist. I remember thinking at the time, “My God! It’s open season for her – she’s the only songwriter out there shamelessly exploring real issues: the slimy people in the music business, sexual assault, some woman she’s checking out who’s like John Wayne...” But her unique sense of humor kept it from just being a tedious lecture because her lyrics let you in on her own screw-ups and exposed her humanness. She proved how singing about self-determination could be the most inspiring kind of catharsis — rather than presenting your most polished, “best side” to an audience. I guess in a way her music introduced me to the concept of the live-concert-as-community versus pop spectacle. I remember the words generous and brave creeping into my head, and I’ve always thought of her art in those terms. In 1998 Ani graciously invited me to tour with her as an opening act. Every night of that