On To The Teeth, her third album of 1999 along with Fellow Workers and Up Up Up Up Up Up, Ani DiFranco offers up 13 songs whose lyrics are as poetic an' political an' personal as ever, in musical arrangements guaranteed to stop you in your tracks and shake you from your ears to your toes. (Note the restraint we've shown in not including the phrase "to the teeth" in that last bit of hyperbole.) The vocal fireworks, high-velocity fingerwork, and funkalicious grooves listeners already know and love are all here, but so are some twists and turns that underscore Ani's varied musical sense.
Ani herself agreed back in 1999 that this one was different from any of her earlier albums: "There's so many crazy things on this record! It spans a year of various recording situations; it brings together a bunch of different studio settings for me." If you're the sort who pays attention to such things, you already know Ani's fondness for such intimate environments as The Congress House in Austin and Kingsway in New Orleans, where she recorded the three discs previous to To The Teeth. Well, she went back back back to both of them, and set up her own "home studio apparatus," The Dust Bowl, at home in Buffalo, so she could capture sounds as soon as they entered her head.
And what sounds they are: on four tracks, Ani became a one-gurl band, playing electric and acoustic guitars, bass, drums, piano, organ, even megaphone and banjo, pumpin' out some jaw-dropping toonage. Elsewhere she's joined by the beloved members of her crack touring band (none of whom were actually on crack, as far as we can tell): Daren Hahn on drums (and a wee bit of turntable scratchin'), Jason Mercer on bass and Julie Wolf on keyboards and vocals. The songs here range from solo Dust Bowl inventions such as "I Know This Bar" to full band recordings like "Wish I May" and "Back Back Back," made in New Orleans with the boys (and girl) in the band.
Then there are the Very Special Guests, starting with a couple of Ani's "musical heroes": Maceo Parker on tenor sax and flute and the artist formerly known as The Artist Formerly Known as Prince, who, as Ani says, "sang the shit out of 'Providence.'" You'll also hear rapper Corey Parker, Toronto's electric guitar mad scientist Kurt Swinghammer, New Orleans trumpet sensation Irvin Mayfield, and the tuba-riffic Brian Wolff of the notorious trio Drums & Tuba. ("It's a very horn-y record," Ani sez.) All in all, one big happy funky folky family, everyone rose to the occasion to produce 71 minutes and 55 seconds of joyous noise.
Welcome to the freakshow. Here we go!
Released: November 1999
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