Ani DiFranco

Evolve (Righteous Babe)

Self-confidence rules on the latest release from indie-folk tsunami Ani DiFranco. On the aptly titled Evolve, she ends her journey with a five-piece band, speeding back toward her roots as a solo singer-songwriter. Now 14 years into her career, DiFranco's mastered the art of intellectual musing with her heart on her sleeve. She's still hip to the white-girl acoustic funk, but groove takes a back seat to songs written to questioning lovers and folk-roots exercises with sparse instrumentation. Songs like the title track reveal DiFranco's growing self-awareness: "I got more and more to do/I got less and less to prove."

None of this is to suggest that DiFranco is no longer taking chances or rocking out her arrangements. "Serpentine," a solo guitar-heavy track, showcases her much-hyped "duct tape and press-on fingernails" approach to playing. On the flip side, the somber ballad "Welcome To:" ends the album, leaving you breathless and possibly grieving over the loss of DiFranco's band. Or perhaps you should celebrate: Fans of Ani the collaborator may miss the vibe of an airtight groove band, but at least she's keeping us curious. And entertained.