From the very beginning of her busy career and life, Ani DiFranco has been on a mission to be heard. For over 10 years she has led a generation of female singer-songwriters in the never-ending struggle against commercialism and sexism. In the process, she has expanded her fan base from its initial, largely female contingent, to a much broader population, including sheepish young men who claim that the only reason they have some of Ani’s CDs is because “an ex-girlfriend was really into her.”
To some, Ani is a contemporary Bob Dylan. Despite her preference for the acoustic guitar, the message behind her songs is unmistakably loud. Her playing is extremely energetic, and her voice is gripping, forcing her audience to stop and think about what she is saying. But above all else, Ani plays for her fans.
So Much Shouting So Much Laughter is Ani’s second live release, following 1997’s Living in Clip, and overlapping slightly in material with this year’s DVD release, Render.
The recordings on this album are taken from various shows at numerous venues from September 2000 to April 2002, and include a large variety of material, including old standards, such as “Napoleon” and “32 Flavors,” as well as rarities and new material. A talented six-piece band, including an especially good horns section, accompanies Ani on this record and deserve a great deal of credit for the appealing jazzy and at times even funky sound of this record.
More so than a double album, So Much Shouting is two separate entities, the first of which is a more general catalog of live tunes, and the second of which is more female-oriented. Stray Cats, the first disc, opens with Ani lamenting the sound of her acoustic guitar before balking on the first lines of “Swan Dive.” It’s certainly an unusual way to start off an album, but it adds a nice personal and human touch to an artist who is perceived by many of her fans as goddess-like.
Ani’s interaction with her fans is empathetic and conversational throughout the album, such as the Vancouver, B.C., recording of “To the Teeth,” on which Ani tells the crowd that if firearms remain available in the United States, she’s going to gather up all of her friends and “move to Canada.”
The second disc, Girls Singing Night, opens with a duet of “Ain’t That the Way” featuring Ani and Julie, another band member.
By far the most stirring track on either disc is Girls Singing Night’s “Self Evident,” an anti-propaganda poem-song that Ani wrote in the days following Sept. 11. A Dylan-like track, “Self Evident” is, in addition to Ani’s response to Sept. 11, a whirlwind tour of Ani’s politics that includes attacks on George W. Bush and the pro-life lobby. The audience’s reaction to Ani’s well-crafted verses is overwhelming, and exemplifies her fans’ relationship with her music and ideas.
With So Much Shouting, Ani DiFranco has released yet another double-disc that will please fans and forward-minded thinkers alike. Sometimes angry, sometimes profound, and sometimes even playful, the recording puts a new spin on old arrangements of beloved songs, while adding in plenty of new material that stays true to Ani’s ever-strengthening ideals.