The transcendent new album from Ani Di Franco, Revolutionary Love (out January 29, 2021), marks the latest proof of one of her most powerful gifts as an artist: a rare ability to give voice to our deepest frustrations and tensions, on both a personal and political level. “My songs have always reflected an acute connection between my personal life and the life of my society,” says the trailblazing musician and activist. “As I started to come out of years of dealing with marriage problems, I saw my entire country in the same situation; the complete breakdown of communication and loss of empathy and connection. But after what seems like unforgivable damage, then where do you go? You can’t kick each other off the planet, you can’t change the past, so what then?”
As the 22nd studio album in an iconic career— a musical career which forged one degree of separation between Pete Seeger and Prince and the accompanying career of founding her own precedent-setting label, Righteous Babe Records—Revolutionary Love began taking shape in the final weeks before the Covid 19 pandemic came to change the plans of everyone everywhere. Returning home to New Orleans from a West Coast tour in February of 2020, with a new batch of songs written on the road, Di Franco found herself without a path to recording those songs and lost in the creative abyss of the collective need for social isolation. “And then I decided I wanted to start pushing this new music out by fall… before the election,” she recalls. “I felt very strongly that I needed a horse to ride to try to help get out the vote—to get people inspired and get them believing in democracy, believing in each other and in themselves.”
Di Franco began to explore using live recordings from the tour as the basis for the new album but then she reached out to her friend Brad Cook, a Durham, North Carolina-based producer/multi-instrumentalist known for his work with artists like Bon Iver and Waxahatchee. The two had kept in touch after crossing paths at the Eaux Claires Music & Arts Festival (an event co-founded by Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon, who appeared on Di Franco’s acclaimed 2017 album Binary), where she became enamored with one of Cook’s guitars. “Brad let me borrow the guitar and I ended up writing half this record on it,” says Di Franco. “I called him up and told him about the new pile of songs I’d pulled out of his guitar and about my recording predicament and he said to me, ‘Give me a week. If you can get yourself to Durham, I’ll take care of the rest.’”
Produced by Di Franco and recorded mainly in two whirlwind days at Overdub Lane in Durham, Revolutionary Love more than justifies the mad dash behind its making. As her first studio effort since the release of No Walls and the Recurring Dream (Di Franco’s widely praised 2019 memoir), Revolutionary Love arrives as an instantly transportive selection of songs. Rooted in her poetic lyricism and ever-commanding vocal work, the album unfolds in an understated yet captivating alchemy of folk and soul and lushly textured jazz-pop. In sculpting that sound, Di Franco and Cook assembled an eclectic lineup of musicians, including percussionist Brevan Hampden (Hiss Golden Messenger, Milton Suggs), horn/flute player Matt Douglas (The Mountain Goats, Josh Ritter), keyboardist Phil Cook (Megafaun, Shouting Matches), drummer Yan Westerlund (Quetico, Mipso) and Di Franco’s longtime touring band Terence Higgins on percussion and Todd Sickafoose on bass.
The finishing touches were added in Eugene, Oregon with the inclusion of the Delgani String Quartet, arranged by Todd Sickafoose, and in Pensacola, Florida with the soulful pedal steel playing of Sacred Steel aficionado Roosevelt Collier. The instrumentation is rich but with many of the performances captured in one or two takes, Revolutionary Love reveals Di Franco’s tremendous gift for seizing the moment of performance and transforming confusion into clarity, pain into perseverance.
Revolutionary Love opens on its luminous title track, a profoundly resolute piece inspired by Sikh-American activist/filmmaker/lawyer/author Valarie Kaur. “A lot of the language in that song comes from Valarie’s book See No Stranger,” says Di Franco, who connected with Kaur after watching a talk she’d given in the aftermath of the 2016 presidential election. “It’s about carrying the energy of love and compassion into the center of our social movements and making it the driving force. It’s about finding it within ourselves to stay curious about our opponents instead of shutting down.”
One of several songs Di Franco composed at Kaur’s request (“She approached me and asked, ‘Can you write some songs for me?’” says Di Franco), “Revolutionary Love” wholly embodies the album’s defiant spirit of irrepressible hope. On lead single “Do or Die,” Di Franco channels that spirit into a slow-burning but anthemic call-to-arms, gracefully laced with falsetto vocals and finger-snapped beats. Centered on her incisive lyrics (“Cuz there’s foxes in the hen house/And bad news every day/And right there on Pennsylvania Avenue/The sheetless KKK”), “Do or Die” began as a poem Di Franco set to music on that early-2020 tour, then underwent a major shift during her sessions with Cook and drummer Yan Westerlund. “Brad suggested I slow it way down, to the point where it was almost at half-speed,” says Di Franco. “At first I thought, ‘This is the rallying cry of the record, and now all the energy’s gone. I fucked it up.’ But what I discovered was that the very deliberate, simple, open approach to the drums left me with all the room in the world to dance around the pocket with my words and guitar. It was incredibly liberating.”
Throughout Revolutionary Love, Di Franco hits a potent balance of determination and dreamy reflection, a dynamic that echoes one of the central lessons of Kaur’s maternal teachings: “If we don’t push, we will die. If we don’t breathe, we will die.” “I wanted to have these moments where, after we engage with all the insanity and strife, we step back and shake off the anxiety and the fear,” Di Franco says. “We all need that quiet space to reconnect with ourselves and our hope.” On “Simultaneously,” a softly spellbinding track lit up in lilting flute melodies, Di Franco speaks directly to the challenge in navigating the disconnect between a visionary inner life and a chaotic outside world (“I live in two different worlds simultaneously/The one where we are fractured/And the one where we are free”). “I look around and everything’s crashing and burning all around me,” says Di Franco, “but in my mind I can see this alternate reality playing out—one where we are all fulfilling our potential.”
Elsewhere on Revolutionary Love, Di Franco brings her nuanced storytelling to far more intimate narratives, the impact of her personal revelation intensely magnified by the rawness of the recording process. “It’d been a long time since I sat in front of a microphone and recorded a whole record in a number of hours I could count on my hands,” she says. “For years I’d been trying to piece records together by hook or by crook, overdubbing different elements at different times, lingering over all the details. But this thing was made more like it was 1968, with people performing on instruments made of wood and metal, laying down a few takes and moving on. It really brought out the prowess of the musicians involved and the immediacy of offering up a song to another human.”
The last word came from legendary producer, mixer Tchad Blake (Black Keys, Los Lobos, Tom Waits) who mixed the album, bringing both an old-school hard-pan aesthetic and a modern expressiveness to bare. Blake’s mixes are not retro 1968 but somewhere in the sonic landscape and in the songs we can hear the echoes of an era filled with the pain and possibility of change. We can hear the cyclical process of the labor of revolutionary love; the breathing and the pushing.
In looking back on the making of the album, Di Franco recalls the daily texts she received from her friend and former tour manager Susan Alzner, who lives in Flagstaff, Arizona. “She’s an activist who really feels the weight of the world on her chest. She goes for walks every evening to decompress,” says Di Franco. “The whole time I was making this record, she’d send me pictures of the sky from when she was out walking, and it always made me inhale more deeply.” So when it came time to choose artwork for Revolutionary Love, Di Franco landed on a series of photos from her friend’s nightly texts. “When people hear this record, I want them to get the same feeling I got from Susan’s sky pictures—that feeling of taking a minute to realize that the light is shining around us and through us,” she says. “Like, we can do this, we just have to stay open. We have to look up.”
Jenny Lewis released her fourth and most critically acclaimed solo album to date, On The Line (Warner Records), on March 22, 2019. Recorded at the distinguished Capitol Studios, the album features a who’s who of supporting players including Beck, Don Was, Benmont Tench, Jim Keltner, Ringo Starr, Beck sidemen Jason Falkner and Smokey Hormel among others. On The Line continues to generate rave reviews, with Vulture declaring it her “best work to date,” and top spots on Best of 2019 (So Far) lists including Rolling Stone, NPR, Entertainment Weekly, USA Today and AV Club. A culmination of Lewis’ prolific 20+ year career, On The Line follows her three previous solo albums—2014’s The Voyager (Warner Records), 2008’s Acid Tongue (Warner Records) and her 2006 solo debut Rabbit Fur Coat (Team Love)—as well as her universally-loved work in Rilo Kiley and side projects Nice As Fuck, Jenny & Johnny, as well as The Postal Service. After a globe-spanning 2019 tour that saw her headline the likes of The Ryman, Brooklyn’s Kings Theatre, and a very special stop at NPR Music’s Tiny Desk, Jenny spent 2020 and 2021 recording new music, including the Dave Cob-produced, “Puppy and A Truck, and captivating audiences as special guest of Harry Styles for Love On Tour. With no signs of slowing down for 2022, Jenny Lewis is fastidiously at work in the studio and on tour as she prepares to hit the road with The Chicks in addition to her own headlining dates.
Righteous Babe artists Gracie and Rachel, Zoe Boekbinder, and Jocelyn Mackenzie unite for a special ensemble performance collaborating on one another’s songs arranged specifically for this tour with Ani.
The Brooklyn-based duo Gracie and Rachel has emerged as a formidable force in challenging the boundaries of pop music. Blending baroque elements, ethereal sonic-scapes, and penetrating vulnerability, the duo creates an emotionally haunting sound all their own. Their sophomore album, Hello Weakness, You Make Me Strong, released on Righteous Babe Records, explores the depths of their emotional states and the walls we build up inside ourselves. It’s music to excavate our inner fears and help us find empowerment from within.
Seen on stages opening for Tori Amos, Ani DiFranco, Julien Baker, San Fermin and more, the collaborative duo of keyboardist, Gracie Coates, and violinist, Rachel Ruggles, have performed two NPR Tiny Desk Concerts and been praised by the outlet’s Bob Boilen to “mix pop and classical in stark, infectious ways and make unforgettable, surprising music.” Look out for new music and more touring later this year.
Nomadic at heart and a creator at their core, Zoe Boekbinder (they/them) was born on a farm into a family of four children. For them, music is as natural and as necessary as breath, and the way they engage as an activist. Boekbinder was raised, in part, by their grandfather — a Holocaust survivor. Having survived the horrific, prejudiced violence of his past, he instilled in Boekbinder a deep belief in justice. Songwriting has become their resistance language.
Boekbinder is one of the founding creators of the Prison Music Project and the not-for-profit album, Long Time Gone, which Salon called “one of the most hypnotically singular-sounding releases of the year.” Dr. Angela Davis said “it’s really powerful and needs to circulate more.” The songs were written in collaboration with nine men incarcerated in New Folsom Prison where Boekbinder volunteered, teaching music, for five years. Boekbinder’s upcoming record will be made by, performed by, produced by, and promoted by a team of people of marginalized genders.
With a shape-shifting sound that is at once personal and universal, Jocelyn Mackenzie creates intimate pop songs for a generation of seekers. She is a Brooklyn-based musician, maker, and psychic medium, best known as the singing drummer from Brooklyn’s indie-pop trio Pearl and the Beard. She released her debut solo album PUSH on Righteous Babe Records in early 2021, which American Songwriter calls "unique and infectious." PUSH was arranged entirely for string quartet and includes compositions from an all-star team of composers including Franz Nicolay (The Hold Steady), Adam Schatz (Japanese Breakfast, Sylvan Esso), and Emily Hope Price (Pearl and the Beard, Kishi Bashi).
Her music, which Under the Radar describes as “spirited, powerful, [and] jubilant,” has been heard in commercials, film, theater, and television. At her core, Mackenzie's extra-sensory skills inform her creative expressions, integrating media and meaning to create a sound that is both sensual and personal, “at once timeless and very much necessary in this moment.” (Popdust)
All tickets are non-transferable and non-refundable. This event is Rain or Shine.
Rock the Ruins is a summer concert series hosted by The Vogue at Holliday Park, an enchanting 95-year old park nestled in a gently wooded neighborhood just six miles north of downtown Indianapolis. Perfect for experiencing live music, catching up with neighbors and friends, and connecting with nature, a Rock the Ruins concert is the ideal spot to spend a summer evening. We encourage our all-ages guests to bring chairs/blankets for all Rock the Ruins shows as seating will not be provided for general admission guests. No outside coolers or alcoholic beverages will be permitted in the park as guests will be encouraged to take advantage of a variety of local and artisan vendors selling food and beverages (alcoholic and non-alcoholic). Guests must present a valid ID (and be 21+) to purchase alcoholic beverages while on-site for any Rock the Ruins event at Holliday Park.