By Quentin Young
‘I always joked that I would make a great dad someday,” said Ani DiFranco. “Be careful what you wish for.”
The folk singer is currently on tour, talking by phone this week somewhere near the Grand Tetons. She was without her family — two children, ages 8 and 2, and her husband, Mike Napolitano — who are back home in New Orleans. It’s both fitting and ironic for DiFranco, a feminist and musical icon, to have a husband she can refer to as “Mr. Mom.” But she’s the breadwinner, and her work sometimes takes her away from home. Like a dad.
This particular trip will bring DiFranco through Boulder for two shows at the Boulder Theater on Sunday, March 29, and Monday, March 30. Brooklyn-based folk-pop trio Pearl and the Beard opens.
Jay Anderson, DiFranco’s front-of-house engineer, is from Boulder. Plus, she likes the place enough to stay for two nights.
“I requested it,” she said. “We love Boulder.”
She’s on tour supporting her latest album, Allergic to Water, which she released in November.
DiFranco rose to fame in the early 1990s as a fiercely independent and original folk singer with a punk attitude and a poet’s artistry. She founded her own label, Righteous Babe Records, and pioneered a pre-internet DIY approach that was a precursor to today’s model of home recording and online self-distribution. She cultivated the kind of intensely loyal fan base that makes her, as she acknowledged, “the envy of the music industry.”
The Buffalo, N.Y., native moved to New Orleans about 10 years ago. Her husband, Napolitano, is from there, and she likes that it’s “explosively musical,” as she described it. In New Orelans, she gets to indulge in her love of jazz. She lived previously amid the bustle of New York City, and Louisiana living is a change of pace.
“I think it’s changed my biorhythms,” she said. “Moving to New Orleans gave me an opportunity to calm down a little.”
Allergic To Water bears marks of the 44-year-old DiFranco’s maturity as an artist. The flashes of urgency and indignation that excited the productions of her youth are here, though somewhat tempered or offered with a smirk. But some things haven’t changed from her 1990s days of being “Not a Pretty Girl.” Her guitar playing is still complex and original. Her vocal delivery is still riveting and unmistakably her own. Her lyricism is still deeply poetic and provocative.
The title track is bound to get listeners thinking. It seems to say that there’s something inherently unbearable about existing as a human being, yet the only option is to go on. In other words, you can’t do without water, even if it pains you. It’s an optimistic sentiment in its way, and DiFranco put it on an album that also has her singing un-ironically about being “Happy All The Time.”
It’s hard for a mom, even a mom who’s like a dad, to be away from her kids for a long time. But the upside for someone like DiFranco is that she gets to work uninterrupted on her craft for a while — which she was happy to find, while touring, that she still has a lot of creating left to do.
“I still got stuff burning in me,” she said. “I have a pile of new songs.”
She plans to go home and record them after the tour. But, she said, Boulder audiences will get a preview of new material.
Quentin Young: twitter.com/qpyoungnews
If you go
What: Ani DiFranco, with Pearl and the Beard
When: 8 p.m. Sunday, March 29, and Monday, March 30
Where: Boulder Theater, 2032 14th St.