Ani DiFranco: To The Teeth

Ani DiFranco: To The Teeth

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Ani DiFranco

Album: To The Teeth

Ani DiFranco is known and admired as much for her business acumen as for her music, but the two are inextricably linked. Her fiercely independent, frequently political lyrics mesh with her widely publicized aversion to the corporate machine, while her tendency to self-release albums at will (13 in the '90s) has clearly affected quality control. Her second full-length in 1999 (third if you count her near-top billing on Fellow Workers, a Utah Phillips record on which she makes a glorified cameo), To The Teeth illustrates both the trappings and the benefits of DiFranco's prolific nature. It's bookended by compelling material, opening with a simplistic but effective anti-gun protest ("To The Teeth") and closing with the pretty, personal "I Know This Bar." But in between is a wildly unpredictable hodge-podge that tosses off abrasive funk ("I Wish I May"), a prominent banjo ("Cloud Blood"), guest vocals by Prince and a (gulp) rapping Corey Parker ("Swing") which also features sax work by brother Maceo, and "Hello Birmingham," a strident message song about abortion-related shootings (it's opposed to them). At 72 minutes, To The Teeth is aided by the something-for-everyone defense, and by the fact that DiFranco's hardcore fans, while often highly critical, are generally willing to purchase and obsessively listen to everything she releases. For everyone else, it's only a marginal addition to DiFranco's huge and frequently worthy catalog.