Asa Irons makes a welcome return with his new album Knife Gift Debt which has been co-produced by Caleb Mulkerin and Micah Blue Smaldone. The New Hampshire born Irons who was previously a carpenter and stonemason has played in a number of bands including Feathers but it was a wonderful joint release with Swann Miller that was my first introduction. Whilst he uses traditional folk music as his backbone he treats them with same creative brush as Alasdair Roberts…with a very inventive and personal vision. Irish tunes bubble to the surface on the likes of the banjo led Avarice and St. Brendan but this far from a transitional sounding album. The songs feel solemn and intimate in places but there are also some lighter moments such as on the stand-out track Happily We Go which features a group chorus including female vocals in the form of Janane Tripp and is very reminiscent of that upbeat sound of Stanley Brinks and Freschard.
Asa’s vocal pace is very considered bringing great storytelling effect and depth to songs as well as a lovely intimacy which is increased by sparse arrangements especially on the slower paced The Last Offence and Passive Hope. Some of those tracks reminded me of Jason Molina and that great album Amalgamated Sons of Rest which he jointly released with Will Oldham and Alasdair Roberts back in 2001.
Knife Gift Debt is definitely worth seeking out and is a breath of fresh-air with the increasing pop-dominated folk music of today.
Here is Asa Irons and Micah Blue Smaldone performing Row Fisherman Row (not on album) in Copenhagen:
Knife Gift Debt is released on 15 April 2013 via Turned Word.