by Paul BlakeHow to describe The Ironweed Project? Probably safest to call it electronica, but with a big dollup of the blues mixed in. Aniff Akinola (aka Ironweed) has set out to mix the Mississippi Delta with the UK dance music scene, and he’s done a pretty good job of it. Having said that, Ironweed isn’t that revolutionary; there isn’t much in here you couldn’t find in parts of Moby, Groove Armada or Massive Attack. The blues influence is normally limited to a repeated blues-guitar riff, a deep-south feel in the lyrics and the occasional bit of organ or harmonica.
The album starts strong with a jaunty country guitar riff over a background crackle and a monologue describing 1940s Mississippi in Aniff’s wonderfully deep and scratchy voice. Good so far, but it’s the appearance of the electronic drumbeats that let you know you’re in for something more special. The next track, ‘She Wore Hi Heels’, although very good, doesn’t have the same degree of blues influence that sets apart the first track, and rest of the album doesn’t really live up to that initial excitement. Having said that, it’s still very good, albeit in a more conventional hip-hop or electronica fashion. Ironweed shows he can master tunes suitable for clubbing, like ‘Brown Sugar’, or thoughtful techno like ‘All By Myself’. Even the tracks I found most annoying on the album – ‘Boom Boom Clap’ and ‘Lets Swim Like Wales’ – are irksome most of all for the catchiness of their repetitious tunes.
Listening to this album, what I wanted to hear more of was the blues influence that Ironweed is trumpeting as his selling point and that makes him stand out. It isn’t that the blues guitar and monologues about life in Southern prisons make the music better – they just make it more exciting. Lots of people will probably find this music a bit too odd for their tastes, which is a shame. But if you have an open-minded interest in music, a love of the blues or electronica, (or even better all three!) I would definitely recommend giving this a listen.