BioAni DiFranco has been "on her own"- to quote her company’s phone number- for a long time. But not since the release of her second album back in 1991 has she been quite as much a solo act as she is on her latest CD, Educated Guess. On it, Ani not only plays all the instruments and provides the lead and backing vocals, but for the first time in her career she singlehandedly did all the recording, mixing and stuffed the discs into the jewel cases as well.
We’re joking about that last part but the rest is no exaggeration. If it weren’t for Greg Calbi (who mastered the album, as he has done with almost all of Ani’s recordings for the last decade), the folks who usually proofread liner notes at Righteous Babe would have to take the month off. Educated Guess is truly a singular sensation.
Its contents are pretty singular too. On songs like "Bubble" and "Swim," the first-person narrator revisits past loves and reflects on the lessons learned from them. Elsewhere, particularly on the spoken-word track, "Grand Canyon," Ani addresses the oft-misunderstood connection between patriotism and dissent ("i love my country / by which i mean i am indebted joyfully / to all the people throughout its history / who have fought the government to make right") and issues a rallying cry in support of "the coolest F-word ever:" feminism, which she sees as the birthright of men and women alike. The package also contains a small book including artwork by Ani and three additional poems currently unavailable anywhere else.
Educated Guess was recorded on vintage reel-to-reel equipment in a shotgun shack in the Bywater neighborhood of New Orleans and back home in Buffalo. Deliberately restricting herself to 8 tracks of audio and, happy to incorporate such accidental accompaniment as falling rain and passing trains, Ani uses the self-imposed limitations of her minimal set-up the way poets embrace the formal restraints of a sonnet: as a vehicle for personal expression. The end result is an album as intimate and fresh as the very best of her work has always been.