Ani DiFranco has earned her rep as the most independent of artists. She records for her own label, and as a result says and does pretty much as she pleases. DiFranco has also shown a willingness to experiment, mixing genres and styles, and Evolve is clearly an important link in her continued evolution. Piano, horns, and guitar mix and merge on "Promised Land," offering a bluesy blend of progressive folk, while a heavy backbeat informs the funky "In My Way." The arrangements are much busier than the "girl with an acoustic guitar" sound of her earliest efforts, but they're never crowded. In fact, DiFranco's such a dynamic singer, at turns soulful and, when angry, in the listener's face, that the heavier arrangements serve her well. The arrangements and solid production, however, aren't enough to save the material. As with 2001's Revelling: Reckoning, Evolve lacks consistency and finally seems meandering. "Icarus"' foreboding melody line drags at a dawdling pace, stopping and starting again, and finally, going nowhere. The worst excess is "Serpentine." It takes three minutes for the vocal to start, and seven more for DiFranco to catalog everything that isn't right in the Promised Land. It's as though she were trying to write her version of Dylan's "Desolation Row," but failed to match her lyrical vision with a compelling musical one. DiFranco's fans will forgive her these excesses because they've grown used to them; everyone else will probably want to reach back to earlier albums like Not a Pretty Girl to hear the DiFranco at her best.
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AllMusic Review by Ronnie D. Lankford, Jr.