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`Revelling' is funky, reflective

Ani DiFranco's plays Paolo Solari to celebrate quieter 17th release

Ani DiFranco is back in New Mexico again. Tonight the acclaimed funky folk babe will jam Santa Fe's Paolo Soleri Amphitheatre to celebrate her most recent release, Revelling/Reckoning.

Buffalo, N.Y.-based, DiFranco must never sleep, considering that this is the 17th album she's recorded and produced on the label she created, Righteous Babe Records, since she first hit the indie scene 10 years ago. Besides having toured literally thousands of venues and creating her own songwriting, guitarist and vocalist projects, DiFranco also is steadily producing.

DiFranco began performing in her local community at age 14, and from the start has made her mark with exceptionally touching live performances. At age 19, she recorded and produced her self-titled debut album and has not stopped moving since. Individualism has always been DiFranco's broadest focus and through the years, she has strengthened Righteous Babe Records, continually resisting major labels in order to stake out artistic ground on her own terms and provide the same kind of support for the other artists on her label.

"I have grown up and around this idea that you can do what you imagine yourself doing," DiFranco said in a press release. "Whatever the climate is, if it's important enough for you to be independent or fight the corporate structure or whatever, you find a way to do it."

DiFranco's style has evolved and expanded through the years, transcending her from "folk rocker" to embody lots of funk, jazz, spoken word and other experimentation and textures into her songs. The melodic powers of her music paired with DiFranco's ability to express herself lyrically - not to mention her reputation for a remarkable stage presence - has earned DiFranco high critical praise and an ever-growing population of loyal fans.

Revelling/Reckoning, released this past April, is a two-disc journey juxtaposing the funkier, outwardly directed first CD with the quieter, more reflective second disc. In classic DiFranco style, songs of personal conflict and joy are alternated with activist socio-political issues, creating waves of emotional, lyrical and musical peaks and valleys.

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About half of each disc features DiFranco and her guitar, while the rest fuses DiFranco and her eight-piece bluesy jazz band.

Every DiFranco project has had a slightly different flavor. Revelling/Reckoning seems to show larger evolutionary steps taken for the singer/songwriter, adopting at points a kind of '70s synth and orchestral groove, which are fairly removed from the punk-folk angst of yesterday's DiFranco.

As is often the case, DiFranco exhibits her best talent for subtle, poignant poetry in her personal rather than political spheres, though for the most part she is effective and unwavering in magnitude.

Perhaps the most strikingly attractive quality about DiFranco is her modesty, which by no means compromises her integrity. DiFranco's music, combined with her general disposition, opens portals to the listener for a starkly honest travel into the landscape of emotion. DiFranco draws you into her realm and offers herself kindly as an old friend.

Though it is clear that she has grown in many ways over the past decade, there is still the same vividity of life in her eyes and exuberance in her voice that makes Ani DiFranco the phenomenal woman she has always been.

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