January 25, 1999 12:00 PM

Ani DiFranco (Righteous Babe)

Album of the week

The 1960s were a time when legions of young, guitar-strumming troubadours crisscrossed the land, singing socially conscious story songs that you could tap your feet to…or so some old-timers would like their socially unconscious children to believe. Well, here is a singer who seems sprung whole from that very myth. DiFranco was born in 1970 to parents whose Buffalo home was a stopping place for itinerant musicians. A performer before she was 10, she is an aggressively independent folkie with a passion for funky rhythms and lefty politics. On this, her 12th album (and second in the past 11 months), DiFranco creates a spare, mesmerizing batch of treats, including “Tis of Thee,” about an America that forgets its poor and is transfixed by Jerry Springer; “Trickle Down,” set in the streets of Buffalo, where “you cease to smell the steel plant after you’ve lived here for a while”; and a gospel-inflected ditty in which she scat-sings about an all-night rap session with “a man in the shape of a man/ holding a hat-shaped hat.”

Bottom Line: Witty protest music

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