A lot of artists prattle on about hardships, feeling like outcasts, having to go it solo — putting being alone and confused in very general, cliche terms. There is nothing general, cliche or status quo about singer-songwriter Ani DiFranco.
What makes her songs so engaging is that they are written less like verse-chorus-verse songs and more like poetry set to ample percussion and acoustic guitars. Most importantly, her prose is so succinct, unique and filled with warts-n-all truth that a listener feels like very personal journal entries are being shared with them.
A listen to DiFranco's best, soul-baring early work — dealing with questions of sexuality on "In Or Out" or the personal helplessness of a loved one's drug excesses on "Two Little Girls" — makes it clear that there were no off-the-cuff brainstorming sessions in the studio with bandmates to figure out what rhymes best with "syringes in her arm." These were songs built from agony and streamed into a microphone when the feelings were most raw. Her pain is our pleasure which would be awkward if that were not DiFranco's intent.
Ironically, the legend of the bald, pierced tattooed and pissed twenty-something DiFranco still holds romance for her die-hard fans. The truth is that, at age 39, DiFranco has never looked more mainstream, domestic and comfortable in her skin.
Finding pleasure in the normality of her life as a wife and mother, and confident in her artistic and business pursuits (she is the owner of her own record label, Righteous Babe), even DiFranco admits that her most recent album, "Red Letter Year," features a more relaxed version of herself.
It's translating into the best music of her 20-year career.
8 p.m. today