Knuckle Down comes with a precious, fancy-papered chapbook stapled into the middle of it. Filled with bare lyrics and even barer pencil sketches, it's the perfect manifestation of everything that sucks about Ani DiFranco: pseudo-literary pretension, coffeehouse glibness and the false impression that she's some kind of grassroots underdog rather than a chart-riding, Grammy-nominated multi- millionaire. Knuckle travels even farther down the path of meandering song structures and jazzy wankery of 2004's Educated Guess, swiping shamelessly from Joni Mitchell and Tom Waits without ever tapping into the genius of either. It isn't until the fourth track that a coherent vocal melody surfaces -- on the earthy if blandly prosaic "Sunday Morning," one of the disc's few redeeming moments. DiFranco has proven herself in just about every way imaginable: as an entrepreneur, an activist, even a cultural icon. Too bad she still has a problem writing a convincing -- or at least listenable -- song.