Ani Difranco Knuckle Down

Following her previous, totally homegrown (she recorded, produced, wrote and played everything) effort, Educated Guess, Ani DiFranco has taken a 180-degree turn for Knuckle Down in method rather than form. Taking on a co-producer for the first time (Joe Henry) and borrowing the talents of her friends (not a new move, but they are new players), DiFranco has exceeded herself for the 14th time by delivering an album that continues in the direction she started with Educated Guess, but without reverting to the sound and style of her back catalogue. In spite of the expanded instrumentation and more ornate production, Knuckle Down is an impossibly intimate affair. "Paradigm”, "Studying Stones” and "Manhole” all further dig into DiFranco’s need to finally reconcile her family upbringing with her adult life. The answers are, of course, never concrete or finalised, leaving the record thematically open ended for further exploration on future albums. Ani DiFranco is possessed of an incredible ability to make her personal life resonate with a universal voice; incorporating all of the voices of her characters and even her own self image into a singular consciousness that anyone can identify with because they find pieces of themselves in it. Knuckle Down answers as many questions as it poses new ones; making it the best written and arranged collection of songs she’s ever released and rendering her body of work still a brilliant work in progress. (Righteous Babe)