Music has that awesome ability to move politics into feeling, into vibration. The genre of the protest song is a classic example. And Ani DiFranco –who started playing guitar when she was nine, set up her own record label at twenty, and was awarded a “Woman of Courage” award by the National Organization of Women in the States a couple of years ago — regularly fuses activism with sound.
The title track of her new album Which Side Are You On radically reworks Florence Reece’s 1931 union song, shown in the YouTube clip above. As DiFranco commented about her latest offering:
I’m testing deeper waters with the political songs on this album. I feel a little bit frustrated, politically desperate. After having written hundreds of songs over decades, I think, ‘Now what? How far can I go with this? Can you sing the word ‘abortion,’ can you sing the word ‘patriarchy’ – what can you sing and get away with? I guess I’ve been pushing my own boundaries of politics and art. Seeing what people have the ears to listen to. How big is my mouth? What can I get out of it successfully?
Which Side Are You On is a catchy, stompy tune that has a driving momentum like all good protest songs should (and even has Pete Seeger on banjo). Definitely one of the best versions of this song yet.