Ani DiFranco - Knuckle Down
Ani DiFranco is nothing if not dedicated, and her work rate of an album per year is showing no signs of slowing down. The question is whether she's managed to keep fresh despite the prodigious output...
On that score, Knuckle Down, comes as a very pleasant surprise. Where some of her recent releases have lost the heart of the song a little to production, Knuckle Down is a return to more stripped down, acoustic, emotionally bare music and all the more powerful for it. This is a record easily up there with DiFranco's previous best work like Dilate and Little Plastic Castle.
The intricate packaging also deserves a mention, with the fold out digipack and accompanying booklet adding value to a disc which notes that, "unauthorized distribution, while sometimes necessary, is never as good as the real thing." - very true, and it's nice to see the effort that has gone into making this an object worth owning, quite apart from the music that's on the disc.
From the opening grooves of the self-evaluating title track, taking stock during an evening out via the beautiful violin and addictive tune of Studying Stones to her family recollections in Paradigm, which talks of her mother 'licking stamps and laughing' it's a compulsive listen.
Her recent dark times which have involved divorce and death give weight to the lyrics, while the accompanying music has a sense of urgency.
If you'd strayed from Ani in recent years, give this a try. If you've never heard her - now's as good a time as any to start and support a truly independent musician...