Review: Ani DiFranco: Red Letter Year

Red Letter Year


(Righteous Babe)

She has settled into a life of motherhood and domestic bliss, but that doesn't stop Ani DiFranco from opening her new album with a killer line. "New Year's Eve we dropped mushrooms and danced round the house," she sings, creating a clever metaphor for the surreal horror of life under the Bush administration. A resident of New Orleans, DiFranco employs the Crescent City's famed Rebirth Brass Band to offer simmering horns that, along with a subtle string section, reinforce the song's pathos. Most of the record follows the title track's richly orchestrated template, with the singer/songwriter surveying topical and personal material. The 38-year-old former folkie, who became a feminist icon for her confessional musings, turns in her best performance on the sublimely self-analytical "Present/Infant." It's a song that starts as a meditation on body-image issues, and how those demons linger well into your late 30s. ("Lately I've been glaring into mirrors picking myself apart/ You'd think at my age I'd have thought of something better to do"). But then the singer turns to her daughter and life is put into perspective. ("But now here's this tiny baby and they say she looks just like me. ... And I would defend to the ends of the earth her perfect right to be"). DiFranco manages to accomplish that rare feat in pop music: Write an intelligent, moving, positive song. She sings, with restrained glee, "I've got myself a new mantra, it says: Don't forget to have a good time!" ***1/2