By Cait Brennan, Jan. 15, 2015.

Ani DiFranco | Allergic To Water | Righteous Babe Records | 

On her newest album, Ani DiFranco continues to defy expectations. In the best possible way, she has always been gleefully spoiling for a fight, railing against sacred cows on all sides, taking swings with a razor-sharp wit, brutal honesty and a musical flair few could match. She also threw in a do-it-yourself spirit worthy of the best of the punks, and it’s served her – and her audience – well.

Casual listeners who think of DiFranco only as a politically charged performer may be surprised by the more personal, intimate tone of Allergic To Water. It’s not exactly new; 2009’s Red Letter Year was the big turning point, though the follow-up, Which Side Are You On was an Occupy-inspired call to arms. On Allergic, though, she’s singing strictly from the heart. Wrapped in its funky-snake groove, “Dithering” is the story of a soul lost in the information age, and it’s as much a current events lesson as you’ll get, with music legend Ivan Neville tearing it up on the Wurlitzer.

DiFranco lives and records in New Orleans, and that vibe is all over the album, from the driving, swirling blues of “Genie” to the slow-burn heartbreak of “Still My Heart.” DiFranco’s ace band rules, but she steals the show with a virtuoso guitar performance. And she’s never been in better voice. She produced and mixed this record herself, alone, in stolen moments late at night, and it has that feel. The cathartic “Careless Words” seems to hint at the Internet controversy she faced last year over her cancelled songwriting camp, while the beautiful, hopeful “Woe Be Gone” is the album’s finest hour, a plea for brighter days and calmer seas ahead.

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Photo courtesy of The Dinah

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Photo courtesy of Michael Feinstein.

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