Difranco takes it to a new, split, level

Revelling Reckoning Righteous Babe Records

The new, two-CD album that Ani Difranco and her band (or should I say collage) of traveling jazz, funk, folk, rock musicians released on the 10th of this month was not something I was ready for.

I put on the first disc, Revelling, while at work, where it is generally a good thing to go fast, and, at least, stay awake. I was hoping to “revel,” as the CD implied, in the familiar voice of the woman that helped energize my own creative efforts throughout the years.

All I felt from the first couple of minutes, was Difranco’s voice moving like a sloth stuck in glue. My espresso-wired nerves did not know what to do with this. I fumbled for the skip button. Kept fumbling. More fumbling. It’s not that it’s bad. Really, I found out later that there is the upmost complexity in this package of songs and instrumentals that her new band really helps to make. Ani Difranco is a writer, a poet, a musician and a performer.

I guess, in these days, it’s just hard to find a place for her somber voice. Give me politics, love stories, social discourses, or just art for art’s sake – but for god’s sake, do it with some energy.

Maybe it’s me, but I just don’t remember her earlier stuff being so, uh, depressing. There’s something very wrong about the idea of revelling, in such a lullaby, whiny and whispering voice.

I’m just going to assume that the rest of you have busy lives too. No time to be depressed, no need to be lulled because you pass out at the end of the day anyway. Let’s just pretend that the whole first CD didn’t happen. Don’t worry. There’s another one.

Reckoning, as the artist says herself, “Is another story altogether.” Thank god. It has more stories, ideas, it’s just, all in all, a stronger, more unifying work of art.

Julie Wolf, who has been with her for a while, is solid on the keyboards. Maceo Parker wails on the sax. Difranco manages to sing about everything from growing up in abusive environments in “Old old song,” to the lack of dignity in American suburbs in “Subdivision.”

Now, that’s my girl. She never forgets to piss on the generally accepted. Mixed with eye-opening rhythms and swerving tones, this time Difranco works her voice more like a leisure car on a nice day. Maybe she has more fun reckoning than revelling.

However she does it, she can make sense of the insensible. She can cause you to put your boots on to go to war (against oppression of course), or to go outside and play in the snow. Or, she can just put up a light to some atrocity in every-day life that you hadn’t noticed before.

It is this falterless springtime music which prevails in Reckoning, and lacks in Revelling. For that matter it is entirely worth slowing down for just a bit. For those of you thinking about buying this CD and are totally confused now, consider this. You can sit there on a beautiful spring morning, busy, sleepless and chugging your coffee thinking about what you could do next, or, you could open a window, put on this her music, kick back, start anew and sip your coffee to the folky beat of life.