Since her self-titled debut in 1989, Ani Difranco has intentionally steered clear of the restraints from record companies. By starting her own record company, Righteous Babe, she has always made the music she wanted to without compromising her artistic integrity. Ani's constant touring has built a grass roots cult following without much corporate radio airplay. Difranco's style is hard to categorize as the provocative singer/songwriter combines folk with jazz for a totally unique sound. Evolve, her 20th studio effort, she continues in the same vein of thought-provoking lyrics, folky guitar with Steely Dan-esc jazz riffs.
Evolve doesn't stray terribly far from the approach of past projects; it stays with the proven formula that Ani DiFranco fans have come to know and expect. While the "don't fix it if it's not broken" methodology might please long-time disciples, it shows a lack of growth on the part of this eccentric artist. While the arrangements are more complex on this recording then ever before, they are almost too busy leaving the listener confused and anxious. An example would be the track "Serpentine" in which it takes three minutes for the vocal to kick in. Lyrically, it's the same messages of protest, which she has been preaching for the past 14 years but somehow the vocals get lost in the wake of the multifaceted and at times overbearing instrumentation which occupies this disc.
While long-time fans will be forgiving and even embrace the new record, Ani DiFranco probably won't recruit any new followers with Evolve but be discovered as she embarks on the summer music festival season.
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