Home Read Classic Album Review: Ani DiFranco | Evolve

Classic Album Review: Ani DiFranco | Evolve

DiFranco's 12th LP is a cross between a historical document & a going-away party.

This came out in 2003 – or at least that’s when I got it. Here’s what I said about it back then (with some minor editing):


Everyone knows there’s safety in numbers. For some, though, it’s too much safety. And not surprisingly, outspoken singer-songwriter Ani DiFranco seems to be in that group.

After a few years working within the comfortable confines of a dedicated and talented ensemble, DiFranco — like the moth that graces the cover of her latest album Evolve — recently decided to return to the riskier world of solo performing. Thus, the approachable Evolve comes across as a cross between a historical document and a going-away party, with Ani and her septet gracefully grooving on a set of effortlessly gorgeous numbers that wander from the strummy folk-jazz of Slide to the wah-wah funk of In The Way to the Miles David-style post-bop shuffle of O My My and the artsy, slo-mo intensity of Shrug and Welcome To: (which debuted on last year’s live album).

Photo by Ancienne Belgique.

But while Evolve’s near-kinetic interplay and smoothly skillful musicality clearly represent the culmination of Ani’s band-based work, the disc also feels a tad, well, safe — with their arty sophistication, few tunes crackle with the dynamic tension and vibrant passion that DiFranco radiates from a stage. Thankfully, a few solo numbers here offer some clue to the exciting direction in which is Ani heading. The title track fuses the funky soul of her recent work with the social commentary of her past, while the raw epic Serpentine is a haunting and hypnotic mix of musical minimalism and monologue that bridges folk, tone poetry and spoken-word. Hearing these, you realize flocking together with birds of a feather is fine, but DiFranco always soars higher when she flies solo.