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Ani DiFranco

Ani DiFranco might be the Johnny Cash of her generation -- an innovative and independent musician haunted by heartbreak, indignation, and talent. After Evolve admitted DiFranco's personal need to do just that, she "suited up for the long walk back to [her]self," a recrudescence she documented on this album. Absconding to a shack in New Orleans with an eight-track, DiFranco was left to her own devices: playing, singing, recording, and mixing -- and she did it all herself. She even glued each artful little detail into place for the 40-page booklet, which includes her poems, artwork, and handwriting. (She and Brian Grunert just won a Grammy for Best Recording Packaging on Evolve.)

Mostly absent from the 14-tracks on Educated Guess are the raucous, uptempo sing-alongs that characterized DiFranco's days of Living in Clip and Little Plastic Castle. On this album, her playing style is more strum-of-consciousness; it's the palate on which she paints her pictures in words. And the words are some of her best, beating the music to the punch with "eyes that do not listen" and "ears that look around." On the title track, DiFranco sings: "I dream in skin-scented sentences/of a stronger, faster, fiercer you/And to each noun, verb, and predicate/I dedicate a vivid hue." In her solitude, DiFranco has created company for the darkest room of the most abandoned home in the loneliest neighborhood in America.

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