Ani DiFranco, |
(Righteous Babe, 2003)
Ani DiFranco continues to challenge and reward her audience in Evolve, her 18th CD. An artist who never seems to stop moving -- whether it be to write, perform or record -- DiFranco is an inspiring example to artists who hope to tread their own path.
Evolve is a satisfying experience on many levels, from its 2003 Grammy award-winning package design with shimmering teal-blue die-cut sleeve, to its inventive arrangements and, as always, thought-provoking lyrics. Ani's vocal and guitar work is complemented beautifully by backing musicians Marty Lester, Andrew Gilchrist, Mark Hallman and Sean Giblin. DiFranco produced and mixed the album, which was recorded at the Dust Bowl in her home of Buffalo, N.Y., and the Congress House in Austin, Texas.
Her lyrics, which primarily explore issues of self and relationship to others but also touch on political issues, can be laugh-out-loud funny and deeply personal. A keen observer of small details, she offers many "aha" moments to her audience. "There's this moth outside my kitchen door, she's bonkers for that bare bulb, flying round in circles, bashing in her exoskull. Out in the woods she navigates fine by the moon but get her around a light bulb and she's doomed" (from "Evolved").
At times she seems deliberately provocative ("every day we yell down each others' holes" and "my pussy is a tractor and this is tractor pull"). She also delights in making connections between personal and global/political situations ("Uncle Sam is rigging cockfights in the promised land and the knife you stuck in my back is still there").
Her melodies are edgy, rhythmic and full of interesting dissonance. Her raw and bluesy vocal performances are saturated with emotion, and her guitar playing is impressively complex and dynamic. Although the overall effect is seldom comfortable, it's riveting.
Although she's often classified as a folksinger, Ani Di Franco stretches herself well beyond that definition. In Evolve she comes across as a thriving, fully articulated new species of artist, whose brilliant plumage includes shades of jazz, blues, alternative rock and folk. If her career growth so far is any indication, this is a species destined to survive.