Every new album from Ani DiFranco gives listeners a reason to get excited about music all over again, and her latest, Reprieve, is certainly no exception. Across 12 tracks, DiFranco ignites more of her signature blend of poetry, politics and musicianship.
Ani and touring bassist Todd Sickafoose are the only two players on the new album - something you'd never guess from it's rich and detailed sound. In addition to the usual array of acoustic and electric guitars, Ani can be heard on keyboards, drums, and other instruments, while Todd contributes bass, wurlitzer, pump organ, piano and 'fakey-bakey' trumpet and strings.
The album was tracked in her New Orleans studio in early 2005 during a break in her usually heavy touring schedule. Forced to leave the master recordings behind before Hurricane Katrina, she drove back into the city to retrieve them just three days after the levees broke. From there she headed back to overdub in her hometown of Buffalo with whatever instruments happened to be on hand.
Between the evacuation and the time off the road, Ani found herself concentrating on the process of recording to a degree she had never done before, and the resulting album is the clearest demonstration yet of her talents as a producer. Unconstrained by the pressures of touring, she was able to take her time with the record, and the end result is an overall sound that is clear and succinct.
While not intended to be taken as a concept album, the songs on Reprieve do provide a cohesive picture of what』s been on Ani』s mind during turbulent times on the personal, cultural, and global front.
Ani describes Reprieve as rooted in the Crescent City, and there』s a direct reference to that town in the album』s centerpiece, 'Millennium Theater.' The line 'New Orleans bides her time' in the middle of this scathing critique of the current Republican regime might sound like a response to Hurricane Katrina, but in fact the song was written well before the disaster that has devastated the city, about a crisis that took no one but the presidential administration by surprise. Like just about everything else on Reprieve, 'Millennium Theater' finds Ani speaking her mind, singing from her heart, and playing music like her life—like all of our lives—depended on it.