Songs from This Album
Album Reviews: Reprieve by Ani DiFrancoAni DiFranco's 18th record, Reprieve, is another sturdy and inimitable (though she has inspired countless imitators) addition to her discography. It's not a stand-alone classic, but does add several tracks to her personal pantheon. Always tuned in to her environment, DiFranco was especially affected by the outside world during the recording of Reprieve, forced to temporarily abandon her master tapes in her New Orleans studio, then to later return and finish mixing the record in a city that had been deeply and permanently changed.
While an increasingly agitated Mother Nature intruded on her recording schedule, her doctor -- advising her to take a rest, lest her tendonitis cause permanent problems -- wisely intruded on her famously ambitious tour schedule, prompting DiFranco to spend a little longer than usual in the studio. And it shows: While she has successfully worked with outside producers on numerous occasions, Reprieve may represent her own finest hour behind the boards. DiFranco's arrangements here are lush and ambitious, but also clean, uncrowded, unafraid of melody, and a welcome treat for those fans who like it best when the "Little Folksinger" shows preferential treatment to her guitar. Of course, even on the most propulsive tracks, like "Half-Assed" (one of those pantheon additions), the focus follows her voice -- as strong as ever -- and her lyrics.
As always, she has plenty to say, both personally and politically. She has so much on her mind during the centerpiece "Millennium Theater" that she almost takes the "We Didn't Start the Fire" approach: "Halliburton, Enron, Chief Justices for sale / Yucca Mountain goddesses, their tears they form a trail / Patriarchies realign while the ice caps melt / And New Orleans bides her time / New Orleans bides her time."
The closing couplet is notable especially because it was recorded prior to Katrina; such was the anticipation of disaster percolating through the city's populace. Later in the album, DiFranco continues her one-woman attempt to legitimatize slam poetry (on the title track), and swings righteously at the false trappings of a material culture and a warmongering society ("Shroud," "A Spade"). In this case, it's nearly impossible to separate the effectiveness of the message from the messenger herself; in terms of integrity and independence in the music biz, DiFranco is in the same rarified air as Ian MacKaye. We need more like 'em. - Adam McKibbin, The Red Alert
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