The self-styled “lil folk singer” seemed to have lost her way with her last two albums. While Up Up Up Up Up Up and To The Teeth were blessed with moments of trademark brilliance, the albums didn’t seem to flow as well as previous work, such as Dilate and Out Of Range.
However, Ani DiFranco has returned with a double album which is guaranteed to have fans salivating with delight. The first CD, Revelling, continues the funky soundscapes of her more recent material. However, the songs seemed to have been tightened up somewhat, and the result is a triumph. The opening track Ain’t That The Way sounds bizarrely like Macy Gray, but later tracks such as Garden Of Simple and the standout Marrow have DiFranco’s style stamped all over them.
The second disc, Reckoning, is a quieter, more acoustic affair, reminiscent of DiFranco’s earlier stuff. A air of political disillusion hangs over this set, as if Bush’s recent election had knocked the stuffing of her. Nowhere is this more apparent than on Your Next Bold Move where DiFranco bemoans the fact that “the left wing was broken long ago…it’s so hard to have faith in anything”. Similar in tone is Subdivision, with its blistering critique of racial segregation in the USA.
However, it’s not just the political that DiFranco is commenting on this time – live favourite So What is a mournful comment on the end of a relationship, while on Marrow, Ani declares that she’s “learning to be alone and devasted”. None of this is depressing by the way – rather these thoughtful and beautifully played songs inspire you, like the best of DiFranco’s material.
Like many double albums, there is some filler here (Kazoointoit is particulary lightweight), but otherwise this is a startling return to form. It may not propel her to the top of the charts – this isn’t pure and simple by any means, rather the work of an incredibly talented songwriter working at the height of her powers.