The first track on Ani DiFranco’s self-titled first album, “Both Hands,” establishes everything about Ani that we’d come to know and love: a powerful but sometimes idiosyncratic delivery of allegorical lyrics paired with unconventional acoustic guitar playing. The song is stripped down and raw, but somehow also majestic.
That majesty is only amplified by Rachael Sage’s cover, which uses a string quartet in lieu of the simple acoustic guitar in DiFranco’s original. Sage also double tracks her voice, with the lead more assertive than Ani’s, but with the second voice adding a less assured compliment to the words. Sage’s chamber music arrangement appears to turn a mournful song about a breakup into a song of cathartic struggle, but faint hints of regret remain.
Sage said of the cover: “‘Both Hands’ was the very first song I ever heard by Ani DiFranco while I was in college – so it’s been an ear-worm in my head for decades. While I don’t typically do covers, it was one of the first tunes to find its way back to my fingers on the guitar during my cancer recovery. There’s a kind of kinetic rhythm to it propelling the story forward to its inevitable conclusion, which is definitely how I felt during the past year with respect to certain changes I’ve made in my life that have ultimately allowed me to heal.”