The lil’-folksinger-who-could took on a twangier twist on Puddle Dive, her fourth album in as many years. Most of the album recounts Ani DiFranco’s cross-country touring life, from a junkyard in Iowa where she befriends a seven-year-old trailerpark boy (“4th Of July”) to power struggles on the bar-gig circuit (“Egos Like Hairdos”). Opening track “Names and Dates and Times” and the jazzy “Back Around” focus on the singer’s flighty memory and distinctive on-the-go lifestyle: “I never really go anywhere anyway/I just pass through from time to time.” As ever, DiFranco blurs personal and political lines on tracks like the sinewy “Willing To Fight” and “God’s Country,” but it’s her famous ball-busting feminism that takes center stage on Puddle Dive. “Blood In The Boardroom” is at first another anti-industry harangue until, of course, she wonders, “Can these boys smell me bleeding through my underwear?” She goes on to lament her feminine power: “These businessmen got the money, they got the instruments of death/But I can make life, I can make breath.” And even as she fine-tunes her politics, DiFranco continues to evolve musically as well. Many of the album’s beefier arrangements (percussion, accordions and harmonicas abound) make the acoustic simplicity of songs like “Anyday” even more emotionally potent. Puddle Dive is Ani Anti-Folk at its finest.
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