Ani DiFranco,
Living in Clip
(Righteous Babe, 1997)

For those of you who haven't had the pleasure of seeing Ani D. live in concert, Living in Clip is the next best thing. Recorded between September 1995 and November 1996 in cities across the U.S., the double CD offers a sampling from DiFranco's numerous CDs as well as some new material (at the time of the recording). The live CD presents DiFranco "in her element" -- the live show, whether it's a concert hall, a coffeeshop or a seedy bar.

DiFranco calls herself a folksinger; Living in Clip proves that label is accurate. DiFranco's music thrives in a live atmosphere; she takes what her fans give her, and then gives it back tenfold through the music. Accompanied by drummer Andy Stochansky and bassist Sara Lee, DiFranco offers up pounding percussion-based folk-rock and intricate rhythms, all flavored with something that can only be described as "Ani."

Many of the songs on the CD, such as "Joyful Girl," "Napoleon," "Both Hands" and "Shameless," are audience favorites; these songs from earlier releases reveal the direct, even brutal, honesty that characterizes much of DiFranco's lyrics. Spoken works arrangements -- my favorite being "The Slant" -- reveal the poetry often found at the center of much of DiFranco's work. The success of many of these tunes comes from a cognitive dissonance -- images that, at first, seem too out-of-sorts suddenly come together and create a powerful result. For example, in "The Slant," DiFranco works with images of autumn leaves in the context of the wash and rinse cycle, rather than the seasonal cycle.

Living in Clip isn't all about music, though. Interspersed throughout the songs are little snippets of Ani talking onstage, with Andy sometimes joining her. Through these small conversations, DiFranco's personality comes through -- a little nervous, a lot goofy. Make sure you listen all the way through CD No. 2. At the end of "Overlap," the CD keeps playing and you get a HILARIOUS bonus track of Ani and Andy talking.

DiFranco's live album is a real treasure, in my opinion. The songs presented here have a power and force that isn't found on many of her studio recordings. Listening to Living in Clip allows you, for a couple of hours, to be in the presence of an artist who loves and lives for what she does. And it comes through in the music and her voice, whether it's soft, broken sorrow on "Sorry I Am" or sarcastic, in-your-face attitude on "I'm No Heroine."

Take my advice. If you only buy one Ani D. CD, make it Living in Clip.

[ by Audrey M. Clark ]

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