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Ani DiFranco
To The Teeth
label: righteous babe
released: 11.16.99
our score: 3.5 out of 5.0

Roam if You Want To
by: kriste matrisch

If you're expecting Ani Difranco's typical folk-alternative sound, then you'll be greatly disappointed. However, if you appreciate her political lyrics, then you will find it apparent in her recent efforts.

With a first listening, I was taken aback. I had no idea that Ani would be playing with the idea of a blues-jazz album, but that's exactly what this album sounds like. The songs that have a bluesy feel to them are "Going Once," "Back Back Back," and "I Know This Bar." Other songs, such as "Swing," "Wish I May," and snippets of "Back Back Back" and "To the Teeth." In "The Arrivals Gate," there is actually a sample taken from "Angry Anymore" that is from her album, Up Up Up Up Up Up.

The album also has a few featured artists. Maceo Parker and Corey Parker contribute their efforts, saxophone and rapping (yes, rapping!) respectively, on "Swing." In "Providence," The Artist formerly known as Prince provides his backing vocals on this beautiful song. It makes sense to me that they would collaborate since she was able to do what he wanted to do at the very start. What I mean by this is that she had to work to start her own label, whereas it took quite a few years in "Prince's" career to get his own label.

Like I've said before, this album has some awesome lyrics. The title cut is obviously a lash out towards the corporations of America, where she sings:

are we really going to sleep through another
century while the rich profit off our blood?
yeah, it may take some doing to see this undoing through.
but in my humble opinion,
here's what i suggest we do.
open fire on hollywood...
open fire on mtv.
open fire on nbc
and cbs and abc
open fire on the nra
and all the lies they told us along the way.
open fire on each weapons manufacturer
while he's giving head to some republican senator…

"Hello Birmingham" is a commentary on the bombings that occurred at the abortion clinic, and to me, it seems to be a praise towards Martin Luther King, Jr, that we still need to keep his dreams alive for civility and equality. it's a well-written song.

There are other songs that are very touchy-feely, I think, that show another side to Ani. "Soft Shoulder" seems to be an ode to her husband in how they first fell in love and how others may not be able to know their true loves until it's too late: "and they had barely said hello and it was time to say goodbye." In "Carry You Around," she sings "and i know the fact of your presence will dominate my memory of this restaurant, this table, this day, and this town. cause i carry you baby, i carry you around." The song "The Arrivals Gate" seems reminiscent to the feelings of being re-acquainted with a loved one.

If you're one who recognizes that it's admirable for an artist to be open-minded and brave enough to try a new sound, then this album will be for you. If blues and jazz are more your thing than folk, then this is a good album to get you interested in Ani's music.