Ani DiFranco with Maceo Parker Wednesday, June 30; Fox Theatre At some point, you'd think, being the music industry's self-appointed righteous babe as Ani DiFranco has tagged herself by way of the name of her groundbreaking indie record company would be a wearying proposition. The "babe" half is self-evident and requires no further comment (at least not without opening the discussion with my wife, and I just don't want to go there). But DiFranco's righteousness has been raging for years now, as she thumbs her pierced nose at the major labels which once ignored her and now would pay heftily to co-opt her cred and rails against societal ills, sexual mores and the pitfalls of rock stardom. DiFranco's latest effort is Fellow Workers (Righteous Babe), her second collaborative album with folksinger/raconteur Utah Phillips, and if nothing else, it proves that DiFranco is as willing as ever to walk it like she talks it. Few causes are as unpopular these days as the labor movement, yet DiFranco and Phillips fill the album with stories of activist heroes such as Mother Jones and the Wobblies, and loose, experimental versions of the labor-movement classics "Joe Hill," "Bread and Roses" and "The Internationale."There's more to DiFranco's artistry than ideology. Her latest solo album, Up Up Up Up Up Up, reflects her increasing confidence for having added an expanded instrumental attack (courtesy of her touring group, the Mensabilly Band) to her once-sparse sound. The album struggles with issues such as poverty and the bogus "war on crime" ("'Tis of Thee," "Trickle Down"), but there's still room for songs of a more personal nature ("Everest," "Come Away from It"), and even an extended funk workout ("Hat Shaped Hat"). Credit DiFranco also with selecting an ultrahip opening act for her show at the Fox, the godfather of soul, jazz and funk saxophone, Maceo Parker. Go figure: The ex-James Brown sideman is a hit these days with, of all things, the jam-band crowd. On second thought, just go. (DD)
Contributors: Daniel Durchholz, Roy Kasten
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