Ani Difranco is now the patron saint of artist who make it on their own. Through her copious energy and sheer strength of will, she has become a popular icon, a heroine and an inspiration to many.
But her success was not always assured. Back before the magazine covers, the duets with Prince, the sold-out shows and screaming fans, she was a struggling young artist with little chance of making it in the music industry. These songs are from that time period. And although not as polished or experimentally mixed as her later material, these songs show a raw passion in a young musician who wants, not to be liked, but to be respected. And over a decade later, the album still feels fresh and powerful.
Songs like "Anticipate", "Rush Hour", and "The Slant" show how she is able to experiment musically, using her voice and guitar in new ways to express strong emotions. Her abilites as a singer/songwriter/poet were firmly established by such lyrical works of art as "Not So Soft" and "Out of Habit". And lest anyone confuse her for a fluffy bit of entertainment, her bold political stances are made clear in "Gratitude", "Work Your Way Out", and nearly every other song to one degree or another.
Ani Difranco's later albums range from polished masterpieces to tired and mellow collections. She is now all grown up, married, having bucked the system and created her own. It's inspiring to see an artist change and grow and mellow, and yet never give up her principles. But sometimes it's exciting to peek back to the days when she had to work for every fan, when each tiny college concert meant one more day of having enough money to eat. These songs are from that time, and they're a joy to hear.