DiFranco Gives It All She's Got

Ani DiFranco always gives the most she can. Even in the packaging of her

new live album, Living in Clip, you get more than you think you

would. The double discs come sheathed in a glossy cover and packed in with

them is a sixteen-page photobook documenting the tour from which the songs

were taken. Recorded live between September 1995 and November 1996, the

thirty-one songs reflect the wide range of emotions tapped into by Ani's

song writing abilities, drawing material from among her nine previous solo

releases as well as including some new material and live dialogue clips.

All in all this is a great deal for Ani veterans, as well as a good intro

album for newcomers.

In the liner notes of the album Ani offers definitions of power, power amp

and the phrase "clipping an amp" which means, "overloading an amplifier

with a sonic signal that exceeds the machine's power capacity resulting in

a terrifying snapping sound and the illumination of a tiny red warning

light on the face of the amp indicating that it is about to blow." Then,

to further clarify the origins of the album title, she includes a quote

from Larry I. Berger, her tour P.A. tech, "the stage amps are, like,

living in clip, man." So, what does this mean? "Living in Clip." Is it a

metaphor? I think so. And what can you do but accept it.

The reason this album would be a good one to get if you've never heard an

Ani before is because as she says "I've never been a studio musician" and

the songs on her studio albums never "sound nearly as much like themselves

as they do here." So this is the goods. If you like Ani's folky acoustic

punkster antics as they're presented on this album than you're probably

good fan material. And old fans really don't need to be sold on it, one of

the most well known features of Ani' s career is her solid and extremely

loyal fan base.

As of late Ani has been getting insane amounts of attention from the

media. Despite being an independent artist and releasing albums on her own

label she has managed to be on the cover of numerous national publications

and well as making a network television appearance on "Late Night with

Conan O'Brien". She is the postergirl for the do-it-yourself crowd. And,

moreover, she'd be voted most unlikely success story by music industry

standards, proving that you dont have to be corporate to make cash.

One of the highlights of the album is the alternate version of "Both

Hands", the first song off of her self-titled first album. The original

version was pared down to just her voice and guitar, a far cry from the

Living in Clip version which begins with an hugely elaborate

orchestral introduction performed by the Buffalo Philharmonic. The essence

of the song is not lost however as the orchestra fades and Ani and her

guitar take over. This song is perhaps itself a metaphor for the change

that Ani has seen in her career, emphasizing just how much of an impact

she has had on both the industry and her fans as her career progressed

from bedroom recordings and busking to a double disk live album and

stadium-sized shows all without losing the essence of her original

messages.

"Fire Door", another song from her early days is present in a morphed

version on Living in Clip. The song, written while she was still in

her teens, emerges on this album as a tighter and infinitely more polished

song. This time she performs it as a successful and passionate singer,

focused and confident--which, considering the circumstances, seems only

right.

The greatest strength of Ani's songs is in her words. In "Willing to

Fight" she sings, " I think its absurd / that you think I'm the derelict

daughter / I fight fire with words / words are hotter."

At times she exudes confidence "I don't have time for you to wonder, I'll

just take who I am here" and other times she exposes her vulnerability ,

as in "I'm no Heroine", "Let me tell you I'm usually face down on the

ground whenever theres a stampede.I'm too easy to roll over, I'm too easy

to wreck, I just write about what I should have done and sing what I wish

I could say."

Ani, ably backed on this album by bassist Sara Lee and drummer Andy

Stochansky, is a singer songwriter who has mastered her particular style

of punky folk guitar. Musically, however, this limits her to one style and

one sound, staccato guitars and undulating vocals. Not to say that all

the songs sound exactly the same, Ani simply has an distinctive style.

Even if Ani's guitar playing style doesn't appeal to you, if the

opportunity presents itself, please give her a listen, her words, and the

significance of her career are enough to warrant support of her projects.

Living in Clip is an extensive showcase of Ani's songs. Recorded

live, they capture her propensity as a performance artist, a side often

lacking in her studio releases. The music and her interaction with the

audience create an interesting double disk which, when paired up with the

photobook give an intimate and interactive Ani experience.