Believe it or not, Ani DiFranco rarely put out more than one album a year in the 90s: it was only her habit of cramming all those extra words into a line (symptom of a brain in perpetual overdrive) that created the impression of crazy prolificacy–although following the 2001 double-disc Revelling/Reckoning with a double live album (her second in less than five years) was arguably an instance of overproduction. Like last year’s Evolve her new album, Educated Guess (Righteous Babe), retreats from the loose folk-jazz of her late-90s work in favor of her original solo acoustic approach. But it’s less a return to form than a revision of her past from a mature perspective: the sound is fuller, the vocals are multitracked into chatty harmonies, and the song structures are as elastically rangy as Joni Mitchell’s in the late 70s. Her sub-Patti Smith protest poetry isn’t going to win DiFranco any new listeners (exactly when, by the way, was the era “before New York was run by suits”?), though it and her use of the word “fuck” are bound to rouse Pavlovian cheers from the faithful who’ll surround you at the show. That’s OK: DiFranco’s vibrant personality ingratiates even when she’s pandering, and she’s always more perceptive about relationships, whether budding (“I just want to know you / Like I know my garden”) or failed (“I’m trying to make new memories in cities where we fell in love”), than politics. Noe Venable opens (see Spot Check); this show is sold-out. Saturday, January 17, 8 PM, Chicago Theatre, 175 N. State; 312-263-1138 or 312-902-1500.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Danny Clinch.