Ani DiFranco

Evolve (Righteous Babe)

Self-confidence rules on indie-folk tsunami Ani DiFranco's latest release, the aptly titled Evolve, as she ends her journey with a five-piece band and speeds back toward her roots as a solo singer-songwriter. Now 14 years into her career, Ani's finally got the art of intellectual musing with her heart on her sleeve down to a science.

She's still hip to the white-girl acoustic funk, but it's taking more of a supporting role as opposed to a leading one, as Ani centers herself now in lust poems and heartbreak rants. Groove takes a back seat to songs written to questioning lovers, and folk-roots exercises with sparse instrumentation need no real anchor. Songs such as the title track make her growing self-awareness evident: "I got more and more to do/I got less and less to prove."

That all's not to say that DiFranco isn't taking chances still – or not rocking out her arrangements. "Serpentine," a solo guitar-heavy track, showcases her much-talked-about "duct tape and press-on fingernails" approach to playing. On the flip side, a somber ballad, "Welcome To:," ends the album, leaving you breathless – and possibly grieving for the loss of Ani's band. Or perhaps you should celebrate. The vibe generated with a five-piece airtight groove band may be missed by those of us who dug Ani's immersion in such collaboration, but at least she keeps us curious. We'll see where the little singer with the wild style and Godzilla charisma decides to stomp her boots on her next solo venture.

 
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