DiFranco Defensive

Alt-artist says new disc tells all

ANI DiFRANCO with SEKOU SUNDIATA Friday (June 15) at Fort York (100 Garrison, Fleet and Strachan). $35. 416-870-8000. Rating: NNNNN

ani difranco has taken out the piercings, let the flamboyant Manic Panic drain into the Buffalo sewer system, stopped flashing those olive collar bones and that sexy tattoo and gotten married (to a man). On her three-year-old marriage to her sound technician, DiFranco is careful not to spill too much information.

“Our marriage isn’t a narrow idea of marriage,” she says over the phone from L.A. “It’s not about settling down with a house and kids and picket fence. It’s about a commitment to one person, a commitment to love.”

Where have all the rebels gone? They’ve taken husbands, every one.

Not two months after the release of her double disc, Reveling/Reckoning, DiFranco is hiking through the United States doing the college thing, and is now in Los Angeles working on a film project. Don’t ask, she says. Stick to the music, she says.

The new Reveling/Reckoning disc is a sprawling witness to DiFranco’s latest permutations. It incorporates a palette of genres, a veritable buffet for lapsed fans and the recently turned-on, tuned-in, dropped-out generation. Characterized by funk fusion inspired by a collaboration with Maceo Parker, James Brown’s ex-sax player, and her own well-honed gritty angst, DiFranco’s newest aural manifesto is a hearty listen, although over its length the message loses cohesion and the broth becomes cloudy.

The first disc, Reckoning, is the blue album, steadily strummed songs that cross catharsis with confession. The regurgitate formula creates a perfect cacophony of folk-ballad alienation and empowered acoustic roar. “I went into the studio to make one album, but I knew I really had enough material for two,” she says. “It ended up that way. I knew I was going in with a total mix of songs.”

Personal revelations, evidently, will be confined to her songs, but as far as the new ones are concerned, DiFranco says, the messages were hard to muster.

“There’s really never any rush of lyrics for me,” she admits. “And these were among the hardest lyrics I have ever written. I’m often not in one place for too long, so lyrics are written all over the place. They become work.”

DiFranco’s show at Fort York on Friday (June 15) is expected to be big but intimate — a contradiction that has allowed folk singers to swoon onstage for the last 31 years. But performance, according to DiFranco, is what keeps her involved.

“The actual playing is what this is all about. The live performance, not the writing, is the cathartic part.”

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