Ani Difranco

Paul Wong

So Much Shouting/So Much Laughter

Righteous Babe Records

Ani Difranco has peaked for now and needs to go away for a while. The woman pops albums out faster than kids and the strain of running her own record label and constant touring are showing. Naturally, being spread so thin has taken a creative toll that’s becoming increasingly evident with each release.

In lieu of a new studio piece, the Folk Queen has pasted together yet another double live album, So Much Shouting/So Much Laughter. Having already released a very exceptional and difficult to out-do live album in 1997’s Living in Clip, Difranco’s new collection is only highlighting how much she needs a break.

So Much serves as a rather abstract companion piece to the 2001 studio double album Reveling/Reckoning by providing more funked-up versions of many loved Difranco classics. This sometimes works, but more often falls short.

It’s a definite plus in songs like “Swan Dive,” “Letter to a John” and “Jukebox,” where schizophrenic horn sections underscore new versions of songs. Reworked arrangements of “Dilate,” “Cradle and All,” and “My IQ,” are other album highlights. However, the album is chalk-full of older songs that just don’t mesh with the new sound. For example, “32 Flavors” and “Not a Pretty Girl,” and dotted other new compositions simple veer more toward the uninteresting.

Difranco is an artist whose fan base is built on idol worship, but a backlash has been in the making for years now. While musically and lyrically, there is nothing horribly wrong with So Much Shouting/So Much Laughter, its just a somewhat unnecessary album. Maybe the folk activist should tend to her record company, take a vacation or clean up Buffalo for a while. She’s low on grist for the mill.

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