One lazy day in 1996, I was meandering up and down the aisles of the local Gallery of Sound music store, having wandered in wanting a new CD, but not having anything particular in mind.
At times like these, I would pull a cd from the rack, check out the recording label, the cover art, and read the song titles. This was how I came across some of my favorite indie/unknowns at the time. Groups like Brad, Sunny Day Real Estate, Lemonheads, Catherine Wheel...
That lazy day found me checking out Ani DiFranco's "Dilate" cd. I had never heard of Righteous Babe Records, the cover was punky grunge, and the titles of the tracks were intriguing, so I brought it up the counter and asked the guy working the register to tell me a bit about her and her music. Rather than explain, he popped the cd into the stereo system and "Untouchable Face" came crawling out of the speakers. Bitter, achey, beautiful... I was in love. I bought the cd and spent the rest of that day and night playing it over and over and over again.
A few days later, I ran back to that store to pick up some of the other albums of Ani's that they carried.
Her lyrics are rough, biting, and painfully sweet. Her voice is soulful, tender, and powerful.
I must have been living under a rock these past two years, because somehow her collection of poetry and paintings slipped right past me. Of course, once I realised I had missed it, I went off in a frantic search to aquire a copy. But alas, my local chain stores were not carrying it.
Out of sheer frustration, I wrote to 7 stories press, and asked them for a copy, expressing my love of her music and my need to own this, and read it. And my request was granted.
If you are familar with Ani Difranco's music, you will know that she has strong political and social views. Views that she is not afraid to express to her audiance. A self proclaimed feminist, hailing from Buffalo NY, she speaks from the heart, and her fans listen.
Cracking open this collection of poems is no different than cranking up the volume on one of her songs. Literally, since quite a few of the poems are actually her song lyrics in written form. But that does not take away from the beauty and urgency that is Ani DiFranco.
Some, like "Pulse" evoke strong emotion - I would offer you my pulse, if I thought it would be useful. I would give you my breath.... And "Parameters" with it's bubbling fear.
Others, like "Subdivision" cry out for us to look around and see our surroundings for the first time - I'm wondering what it will take for my country to rise, first we admit our mistakes and then we open our eyes. And "Self Evident" in which she takes on 911 and other catastrophes, and our reactions to such events.
Taking the recording industry by its neck at the age of 18, and building her own label - Righteous Babe Records - doing things her way the whole way... painting, poetry, and music that stirs the soul.
A true gem for an Ani fan, and for those who are new to her, a perfect place to introduce yourself.