Ani DiFranco is the Joyce Carol Oates of pop as she churns out another new record at a clip no one comes close to matching. Here she goes back to basics after her recent explorations of jazz and blues and writes, records, and produces this 14-song effort. It's a return to her more folk-oriented days and the DIY approach always seems to highlight her strengths. The acoustic songs deal with an array of issues including patriotism ("I love my country/ by which I mean I am indebted joyfully/ to all the people throughout its history/ who have fought the government to make it right"), which resonates in this highly political season. Most of the tunes deal with relationships and the labors of love; there are songs on which DiFranco's lyrical insight is keen and others on which she overreaches and the result is straight out of Banal Lyric 101 ("the light blue flickering rhythm/ of the neighbor's big console TV/ is basking on the ceiling of/ another insomniac spree"). But her guitar playing is lucid and agile and her singing is always impassioned and gripping. With spoken-word interludes, the CD plays like an intimate engagement with DiFranco.
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