Rocker in the storm

Chris Azzopardi
By | 2006-06-22T09:00:00-04:00 June 22nd, 2006|Entertainment|

When Hurricane Katrina sent New Orleans residents fleeing for safety, folk singer Ani DiFranco did the same. As she watched from her Buffalo, N.Y. home, the storm surged feelings through DiFranco that she chronicles, like most of her candid work, on a new 13-track album, “Reprieve.”
DiFranco told Rolling Stone that the album was initially recorded live in her old apartment. “And then the wind picked up and all the shit hit the fan, and New Orleans turned into a war zone. I ended up in Buffalo, stranded for a few months with a cheesy synthesizer and an Omnichord.”
On what seems to be DiFranco’s umpteenth album (this is somewhere around album number 20), she fleshed out the record with overdubbing on a synthesizer. “It was a challenge, like, ‘Two sticks, rub them together and see if you can make a fire.’ It was like trying to make cool sounds out of something that’s inherently not,” she said.
“Reprieve,” like most of DiFranco’s albums, wears its heart on its sleeve and mixes feelings about the disaster in New Orleans with lyrics pertaining to love, politics and being a celebrity. On “Millennium Theater” she sings, “First leak it out about the president/Then stand up and shout ‘impeachment’/Pulling coat tails out from under that little V.P./Before he has a chance to get in the driver’s seat.”
“That song is a rant about the insanity of the spectacle, as opposed to what’s really happening underneath,” she told Rolling Stone. “It was written and recorded months before the storm hit. So I would say it’s, like, ‘divinely prophetic’ – if we all didn’t know that shit was coming. Including the Levee Board. Including FEMA. Including government.”
On the politically charged “Decree,” DiFranco alludes to the life of an icon when she sings, “Step up and forfeit your frontal lobe/To the sexed up stroll of celebrity/Never mind that the nanoseconds in between/Are some of the darkest darkness that you’ve ever seen.”
It’s the beautifully tragic “Hypnotized,” ripping with sparse guitar strumming and piano chords and layered in instrumentation that leaves the most lasting imprint. It’s a vulnerable tune that sets the mood for “Reprieve.” “So that’s how you found me/rain falling around me/looking down at a worm with a long way to go,” she sings.
From the haunting guitar work on “A Spade” to the piano-driven “Reprise,” which provides a brief glimmer of hope in its awe-inspiring melody for the lives Katrina took, DiFranco has created a candid framework for catharsis in the midst of a disaster.
In support of the new album, DiFranco will perform several stripped-down shows. Last year, she discovered she had tendonitis and doctors told her that she’d risk permanent damage if she continued touring. “It’s been weird for me to be quiet and still to begin with,” she told Rolling Stone. “So it will feel good to get back in the saddle.”

About the Author:

Chris Azzopardi
As editor of Q Syndicate, the international LGBTQ wire service, Chris Azzopardi has interviewed a multitude of superstars, including Cher, Meryl Streep, Mariah Carey and Beyoncé. His work has also appeared in GQ, Vanity Fair and Billboard. Reach him via Twitter @chrisazzopardi.