The title of veteran singer/songwriter's new album, "Reprieve," is both apt and ironic. The 35-year-old was forced off the road last year while recovering from extreme tendonitis in her wrists and han

The title of veteran singer/songwriter's new album, "Reprieve," is both apt and ironic. The 35-year-old was forced off the road last year while recovering from extreme tendonitis in her wrists and hands. But, just as she has throughout her career, she remains restless as a political activist and musician.

To be released on Aug. 8 on DiFranco's own Righteous Babe label, "Reprieve" is a "hard look at patriarchy," according to the artist.

"It is kind of weird, in this day and age, to be talking about that particular subject. You'd think instead it'd be about the war or the government infrastructure or the kind of greed from that government that we're subject to," DiFranco tells Billboard.com. "But I sort of see all these things stemming from this one thing. I think that patriarchy is the root of imbalance, the disease from which all these symptoms manifest."

"I'm not looking for the other extreme, but just for the consciousness of incorporating women into the permanent structure, as an essential ingredient for peace," she continues. "And that doesn't mean just plugging them into a few seats in Congress, where they may just become part of the system. I'm talking about a permanent change, a part of the language." She laughs. "Is that heavy enough for you?"

DiFranco is backed on the album by tourmate Todd Sickafoose, who fills in on upright bass, organ and keyboards on a few songs. DiFranco also credits "Saint Claude," the avenue that runs beside her part-time studio in New Orleans, for ambient sounds of traffic, birds, thunder and frogs.

DiFranco has lately been splitting her time between her Buffalo, N.Y., home base and the Big Easy, where she has taken residence with boyfriend Mike Napolitano, who co-produced "Reprieve." "I guess we're beyond dating now," DiFranco says. "I'm rather taken with him. It's very nauseating, isn't it?"

After a nearly 10-month absence from the road, DiFranco will preview new material as she kicks off a tour Saturday (July 8) at the Montreal International Jazz Festival. Dates will likely run through November, though she'll likely be unable to tour as extensively as before her diagnosis.

Along with Sickafoose and multi-instrumentalist Mike Dillon as her backing band, DiFranco has tapped artists like Hamell On Trial (whose album, "Songs for Parents Who Enjoy Drugs," she produced), Toshi Reagon and spoken word artist Athens Boys Choir as openers.

As previously reported, DiFranco can be heard on the Twilight Singers' latest album, "Powder Burns," as well as on Canadian singer/songwriter Bruce Cockburn's most recent set, "Life Short Call Now" (Rounder).

Here is the track list for "Reprieve":

"Hypnotized"
"Subconscious"
"In the Margins"
"Nicotine"
"Decree"
"78% H20"
"Millennium Theater"
"Half-Assed"
"Reprieve"
"A Spade"
"Unrequited"
"Shroud"
"Reprise"

Questions? Comments? Let us know: @billboard

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