Corporate scandals, a plead for the impeachment of President George W. Bush, the dangers of technology and environmental destruction are among the plethora of topics discussed on Ani DiFranco’s latest album “Reprieve”; and they are all found on one track.
DiFranco has a lot to say, and she uses all 12 tracks on “Reprieve” to do so. In August the singer, songwriter and poet released her 18th album since her self-titled debut in 1990. This album shows the maturity of her musical talents and blends well with her superb song writing ability.
DiFranco was recording the album in New Orleans when she was forced to evacuate due to the impeding Hurricane Katrina. She packed up and moved to Buffalo, NY where she continued to write songs. “Reprieve” has an eeriness about it because it contains songs written before and after the hurricane devastated New Orleans.
The first song, “Hypnotized,” starts with the simple strumming of an acoustic guitar and progresses into a mesmerizing musical score. Todd Sickafoose, the only other musician on the album, plays the bass, piano, trumpet and other instruments brilliantly. “Hypnotized” does just what the title insinuates: It brings the listener into a musical wonderland, chock-full of clever wordplay and impressive instrumentation.
One of the most politically motivated tracks on the album is the spoken word presentation of “Reprieve”. The track deals with the 60th anniversary of the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. DiFranco’s lyrical mastery shines when she says, “I mean to split yourself in two is just the most radical thing you can do, Goddess forbid that little Adam should grow so jealous of Eve.”
As with all her albums, feminism is a topic found throughout “Reprieve.” With the song “A Spade,” she challenges women to unite for a common cause with lyrics like “Dear friends, especially the women, tell me are you up to the task of turning the wheel on human history, at long last?”
Those who want nothing to do with feminism may want to look elsewhere. However, DiFranco’s album never crosses the line over to offensive and she does not go out of her way to bring controversy. Instead, DiFranco plays it cool, and recites exactly what is on her mind. That is what music is intended for, is it not?
Likewise, those who like “harder” music could be turned off by the acoustic tracks, although electric guitar use is scattered throughout the album.
Overall, “Reprieve” is a great album from one of the few singer/songwriters in our day that incorporates great ability with a poignant message.