Ani DiFranco continued to expand her musical palette gradually on her third album, using outside musicians on some tracks to support her acoustic guitar with bass and drums, and adding individual instruments -- trumpet, viola -- for color on certain tunes. But the focus was still on the evolving persona depicted in her lyrics, one who continued to flirt with lesbianism consciously on "In or Out" and "If It Isn't Her," and, perhaps unconsciously, in the what-does-she-see-in-him sentiment of "Fixing Her Hair." The larger theme of the album, also suggested in "In or Out," was the artist's inability to "fit in," either because of her sexuality, her politics, or, most tellingly, her occupation as an itinerant musician. In "Every State Line," she reflected on the difficulties of shoestring travel, and in "Good, Bad, Ugly" and "The Waiting Song," the difficulties of long-distance relationships shaped both the songwriter's anger and her self-doubt. She had not tended to question herself before this, but from its title, Imperfectly, on, DiFranco deconstructed her persona, asking, "What If No One's Watching" in one song and declaring, "I'm No Heroine" in another. At the same time, she upped the ante of her sexual politics, expanding from criticizing individual men to berating a culture she saw as dominated by male views in everything from the music business to architecture ("Who says I like right angles?"). But if Imperfectly presented the singer at her most doctrinaire, it also displayed surprising warmth for individuals, notably the uncharacteristically forgiving "Served Faithfully." Imperfectly was the work of a still-growing, still passionate, sometimes confused artist whose personal story in song was proving to be fascinating.
AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann