Even though her 13th studio album, Knuckle Down, won't be out until January 25, Ani DiFranco says she has already accumulated another album's worth of material. "I tend to follow my own pace so that it shifts from year to year, but generally it's pretty fast and furious, and it's more like a sensation of running to catch up with my muse, I guess," the punk-edged folk singer told Billboard.com. "I'm going to go back to my place in New Orleans and start working on new recordings over the holiday break."
Knuckle Down, released on her own Righteous Babe Records label, marks a departure for the fiercely independent singer-songwriter. She enlisted the services of fellow musician Joe Henry to coproduce the 12-track disc. After touring together last year, the Buffalo, N.Y., native says she felt a creative kinship with Henry. In addition, DiFranco decided to mix things up by leaving behind her upstate New York studio to record in Los Angeles with longtime stage partner-bassist Todd Sickafoose and a host of musicians--Julie Wolf (melodica), Tony Scherr (electric guitar), Noe Venable (voice), Andrew Bird (violin, glockenspiel, whistling), Patrick Warren (piano, samples, chamberlin), Jay Bellerose (drums and percussion), and Niki Haris (voice).
As for the even newer songs, which include "Shroud," "Hypnotize," and "A Spade, a Spade," DiFranco says they feature a definitive political slant that separates them from the more personal narrative heard on Knuckle Down. "A lot of what I've been struggling with in my writing lately, with these new songs, is how to give voice to very specific, direct political ideas and still have it be poetry and music," said DiFranco. "I feel very urgently about wanting to communicate some things, but it's much easier to write love songs. It's difficult to use words in songs like 'patriarchy' or 'filibuster.' It's like, how do you really make a pointed political statement and not have people recoil either from elaborate language or just kind of trigger language that people, I think, are reticent to hear?"
While there's no release date on the schedule for these songs, fans can expect to hear them on a monthlong tour slated to begin in early February. Joining DiFranco on the road will be Sickafoose and Bird, who will also open the show. "It's a really gorgeous, new place for me to realize my songs in," said DiFranco. "To have all of those stringed instruments--the guitar, the upright bass, and the violin--together makes a whole new palette, which is really quite beautiful onstage."