54. Ani DiFranco, Out of Range (Righteous Babe, 1994)

It takes real dedication to make your way through this folk-slinger's back catalogue.  Like a diary, it documents an emotionally messy life without any pages ripped out.  As with spiritual godmother Joni Mitchell, her earliest efforts now seem embryonic and her more recent ones feel a little suffocated and isolated.  Thus, her most essential work came in the middle, with her confidence, intuitiveness and accessibility gaining speed as her audience swelled.  This key record fleshes out her humble girl-and-guitar beginnings with horns, accordion and electricity, but what you really notice are the fully fleshed-out songs.  "Hell Yeah", "Overlap", "Letter To a John" and "Falling Is Like This" crackle with newfound complexity, sophistication and warmth.  On "You Had Time", a sparse, intimate peek at a faltering relationship, it takes three minutes of her lone piano noodling to work out and eventually find the song's melody.  But when she finally does, it practically blinds you, resonating so strongly that it almost hurts.