Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Recording engineered by Mike Gentry
The last time that I wrote about Anni Rossi - nearly three whole years ago - she'd just written a song called, "Las Vegas," and the tone of it was very much of the underdog finding a way to not let getting its teeth knocked out, lying back-flat against the canvas floor. It's a tone of full-on resiliency when there shouldn't be a lick of the stuff in the battered and denounced body. I called her a gritty fighter then, based almost exclusively on that new song. It feels slightly prophetic now, though that would be claiming way too much responsibility for something that had nothing to do with me. That song must have been the catalyst for Rossi, the vein into a ballsy line of thinking that kept her and her characters nuzzling up to and embracing a kind of scrappiness that comes out of a road-weary, but not punch-drunk prizefighter.
She plays "Las Vegas" again here, with a more lush and fully imagined sound, and she sounds like a gutsy woman who gets her hands taped up every night and takes on all challengers - sometimes getting creamed, leveled and dismissed, but most times either holding her own or coming away with the upper hand, two results that lead to an attitude that never lets up. It's not cockiness or sureness, but it's the hardened feeling of a tomcat who can't go a night without another scuffle, but always makes it to the end of the night or the morning where he can lick his wounds and reflect. Rossi writes music that comes from someone unwilling to stand down whenever they're challenged, though they're more liable to want to remain in the shadows. They don't want the fights, but they'll take the scrapes if they aren't avoidable. They proudly walk around with one blackened eye and some swollen knuckles.
She sings, "Absorbing the force of the shock/Will they find me sitting on the curbside/When I should have been taken away in an emergency car/If I were to crack in half you would see/All of my blood and all of my teeth/A champion of my boxing match," and it sounds mostly romantic, like a note from a candlelit evening. She sings, later in the session, about feeling mostly like an ant, small and easily tramped upon. It can go both ways - that delicateness and vulnerability, but the capability of defending oneself, of springing up, with a stiff ass back and the dukes flaring, set to come to blows, ready to absorb a jab.