“Reckoning,” the meditative half of Ani DiFranco’s latest two-disc album, “Revelling/ Reckoning,” opens with a lament for the demoralized state of the political left.
In “Your Next Bold Move,” DiFranco reflects on how “coming of age during the plague/of Reagan and Bush” affected herself, her generation and her politics. But it’s not a raging indictment.
DiFranco turns the microscope inward, daring herself to make her “next bold move/or the next thing you’re gonna need to prove/to yourself.”
The song – poetic, political, personal – typifies the craft DiFranco has honed to a fine art for her 13th album in 10 years. But the tone is more somber, more humble, than usual.
“I had a particularly devastating year emotionally with my primary relationship, with my partner,” DiFranco explains during a phone interview from a stop on her tour. “I think that the persona of myself in my songs reached a level of humility and vulnerability that she’s never reached before.
The albums are just riddled with very difficult things to show in songs, like regret, shame, self loathing – those are not the funnest things to sing about.”
DiFranco divided the album, released last spring, into two parts to separate the more lighthearted songs from the serious. “Revelling” features DiFranco’s five-piece touring band in full funk-rock jam mode; “Reckoning” captures her in a jazz, Joni Mitchell mood. But the two are inextricably connected.
“They’re two sides of one thing,” DiFranco says.
For a decade, DiFranco has been a one-woman industry, releasing her records on her own Righteous Babe label despite numerous offers to sell out to corporate labels. She started her career playing women’s music festivals and folk coffeehouses and remains a spokeswoman for feminist and other causes.
But mostly, she has been a prolific songwriter.
“I tend to write about little things as a way of talking about bigger things,” she says.
“I’ve been learning how to say in my own life, I’m wrong. That’s a hard but necessary thing to do in order to humanize those people around you that are so desperately wrong – those … George Bushes of the world. We can’t perceive them as monsters, because the scary thing is, they’re human.
“Trying to span that distance and trying to connect, negotiate and communicate across those lines that people draw in the sand is so necessary. If Israel and Palestine can sit across the table from each other and talk, it’s a testament to our ability to negotiate and settle things diplomatically.
“I think on a microcosmic level that needs to occur in our daily lives, in our towns, and in our workplaces.”