The Georgia Straight - - Music - > ALEXAN­DER VARTY

2Ani Difranco has never been shy about

defin­ing her pur­pose, whether it be em­pow­er­ing young women in the mu­sic in­dus­try, bat­tling the death penalty, or fight­ing for the preser­va­tion of re­pro­duc­tive rights. But her fo­cus ap­pears to have changed with the re­lease of her 19th stu­dio al­bum, Bi­nary, or so it seems from “Ter­ri­fy­ing Sight”, in which she ex­presses her in­tent to “make a grate­ful sound/and back it up with a grate­ful soul”.

Is that her mis­sion state­ment for this phase of her life and work? “Sure! I’ll go with that,” the hap­pily ex­tro­verted per­former tells the Straight from her home in New Or­leans. “Yeah, I think that I’m more con­scious than I’ve ever been about not just what I’m singing about or what the hell I’m try­ing to ex­press, but the place that I’m singing from, you know. Where I’m stand­ing when I’m say­ing what­ever it is I have to say. So, yeah, there’s prob­a­bly a higher level of aware­ness on this record, to that ef­fect. I’m com­ing from a place of grat­i­tude and com­pas­sion, and hope­fully I’ll be able to get some stuff out over the Net re­gard­ing that spirit.”

It’s not that the po­lit­i­cal is tak­ing a back seat in her new ma­te­rial; Bi­nary’s ti­tle track takes a pointed jab at “despots in di­a­pers”, while both “Play God” and “Al­righty” call out the sex­ists who would deny women con­trol over their own bod­ies. (“You don’t get to play God, man,” she sings in the for­mer, “I do.”) But there’s a new sweet­ness here that emerges most strongly in the near-ec­static love song “Even More” and in the over­all sound of the al­bum, with its nods to jazz and New Or­leans funk.

In re­cent years, Difranco says, the AfricanAmer­i­can tra­di­tion has given her a true tem­plate for mak­ing mu­sic of hope and pur­pose in hard times. “On the record be­fore this one, Al­ler­gic to Wa­ter, I have a song called ‘ Happy All the Time’, and no­body knows it but me—i don’t think any­body ever asked—but it’s re­ally a song of def­er­ence to African-amer­i­cans,” she ex­plains. “It’s ba­si­cally a song about how strug­gle breeds wis­dom and pro­found grace.

“I live in New Or­leans, you know, in the Deep South, among some of the long­est-suf­fer­ing peo­ple in North Amer­ica, and the tran­scen- dence that has been a byprod­uct of that—jazz, for in­stance—has been a gift to the world.”

For­mer James Brown band­leader Maceo Parker plays sax on Bi­nary, and in Van­cou­ver her ac­com­pa­nists will be drum­mer Ter­ence Hig­gins and multi-in­stru­men­tal­ist Ivan Neville.

“I’ve al­ways been a fan of funk and of jazz, from old-timey Dix­ieland to the avant-garde, but liv­ing here, I think, it soaks in deeper,” the singer-gui­tarist says. “I’m lit­er­ally soak­ing in it.” Ani Difranco plays the Van­cou­ver Play­house on Mon­day (Novem­ber 6).

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