It’s useless to try to explain what has happened to Ani DiFranco’s music in the last few years. It’s like trying to figure out, after a long and tumultuous, simultaneously rewarding and infuriating relationship, who that person is lying next to you in your bed. You beg them to show you just a glimmer of the person you fell in love with, but, alas, you don’t even recognize them anymore. For all intents and purposes, DiFranco’s 14th effort, Educated Guess, is a break-up album. In 2003, the seasoned folksinger split with her husband and her band, the jazz-folk meanderings of which helped make 2001’s Revelling/Reckoning and last year’s Evolve disappointments at best. But Educated Guess isn’t the return to solo form or the potent break-up album fans of Dilate (or any of DiFranco’s other albums from the 1990s) may be hoping for. The best track on the album, “Bodily,” is less angsty than elegant (not necessarily a bad thing, especially for a woman who is no longer 19), but this isn’t the sound of a liberated woman. Educated Guess was recorded by DiFranco herself on an 8-track reel-to-reel and the multitalented musician plays every instrument on the album’s 14 tracks, but there is no sense of adventure or experimentation to be found. DiFranco’s 1995 album, Not A Pretty Girl, is a finer example of the singer’s solo prowess, displaying her ability to conjure the robust, full-bodied sound of an entire band almost all by herself (the exception was Andy Stochansky on drums). The DiFranco of that era grabbed me by the balls. She made me cry. She made me laugh out loud. These days we still agree on all the big, important issues (namely, the current state of political affairs, which she quietly attacks on “Grand Canyon”), but, like not-so-dearly departed lovers, we just don’t see eye to eye.
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