Folk singer Ani DiFranco’s latest album, Which Side Are You On?, sways between liberating marches and light airy tunes. DiFranco’s staccato guitar carries her live-and-let-live spirit, anti-corporate messages, and feminist ideals. Every word, from soft turns-of-phase to blunt political prose, provides poetic and emotional images, as well as insight into her way of life.
The album’s title track is DiFranco’s revised version of Which Side Are You On?, written by Florence Reese in 1931 and popularized by folk singer Pete Seeger. In 2009, DiFranco debuted her new version of this tune at Pete Seeger’s 90th birthday celebration. Seeger, who DiFranco considers her “forefather in folk music and political song,” provided banjo accompaniment for the studio recording of the song. Her altered lyrics address modern issues like government and corporate greed, environmental concerns, continuous racism and women’s rights. She also claims that the negative effects of Reaganomics are still felt today and says she supports the more socialist systems of Europe and Canada.
Another one of the album’s most political tracks is “Amendment,” which calls for the Equal Rights Amendment to be passed into law. While addressing the view that “chicks have it good now,” DiFranco argues that there is a heightened sense of women’s rights even in Canada. In regards to abortion, she sings, “if men can kill and be decorated instead of blamed, then a woman called upon to mother can choose to refrain.”
Although some of these songs do carry the voice of protest, many are mellow and personal. “Albacore” portrays the emotions of falling in love late in life and weaves poetic, yet simple verses. Lyrics such as, “Look here, I just tattooed a wedding band on what looks to me like my mother’s hand,” create intense imagery, which is characteristic of DiFranco’s previous work. After over 20 albums, it’s sure to say that Ani DiFranco is still the same “righteous babe.”