On March 16, 2013 the music world lost a true talent. Jason Molina of Songs: Ohia, Magnolia Electric Co., and several other projects and solo endeavors was found dead in his Indianapolis home. It’s been nine days since his passing, and I’ve spent this time listening to his catalog in more depth. This is an article written by Sean Moeller for the Daytrotter session Magnolia Electric Co. did in 2009.
Jason Molina writes a world that is largely antiquated, or out there in and amongst the canyons, the western skylines, the empty spaces that time and the masses have cast aside as not exciting enough to pay much mind to. These are the places that are barely surviving, where the population has been decreasing ever since the 1970s or whenever it can be established that the farmers and the ranchers really started to feel the pinch. These are places that outsiders consider as afterthoughts and use only for potty breaks, to buy cigarettes, gas and greasy hamburgers - just enough to carry them on through these sticks to get to the brighter city lights and all of their importance. These spots and these people that Molina writes songs about are destined for little other than dramatic overlooking and restlessness that will slowly seep into their bones, weakening them until they’re frail and old, looking back on their times, all of them empty-pocketed. Everything that Molina has made - under his own name, as Songs:Ohia and most recently and regularly as Magnolia Electric Co. - is drenched in warm, sunset winds and the hard-luck, unfortunately and hardly loved gentlemen who have always meant well, always worked their hands raw for an honest wage and still not seen much in the pot at the end of their golden rainbow. Many are still waiting for the sun to come back out to even produce a spectrum that could be followed across the sky. His way with writing the wispy thoughts and the graven hearts of these folks of small town ethics and yes sir, no ma’am manners - the kinds of folks who never make sitting down and eating a home-cooked meal as a family an exception, who raise each other’s barns and kids and help each other to get their crops out when the going gets tough - is effortless and smooth. He shapes the plights of the common man with graceful gentility and care, showing them to be intricate beings with the as complex of troubles and emotions as anyone. It’s as if we’re hearing songs that were written in Nashville in the 50s and 60s, digging into the saddest aspects of love and life that any man would ever have the privilege of dealing with, though he smothers them not with aw shucks humor or faux defiance - as if some effort was being made to defray the pain and sorrow by spinning the story to seem more like a blessing or a valuable lesson learned by a young, foolish hayseed - but with real, salt in the wounds, dirt in the eye rub. It hurts and it hurts really bad. Things got crossed and fucked up and there’s a man bleeding, there’s a woman torn, there’s a woman bleeding, there are dozens of folks disappointed and lost and there are all kinds of even worse things that are going to happen as a consequence. We’re not left with a wet and snotty handkerchief though, but rather a shimmering take on what a man or woman does in such circumstances and how their minds work to pull themselves out of the holes that they’ve more often than not dug for themselves, obliviously taking them deeper and deeper without knowing it. We get these fascinating and literately driven pieces of rustic prose that should be some of the most cherished songs of our generation. Molina sings about the “sorrows that are to come and the sorrows that never were,” and he brings so much care and heartfelt appreciation to these wandering souls who lack their definition and their final piece - often a couple of the final pieces. He makes you want to find all of these weary people and try to tell them that there is more inside them than the unfulfilled dreams, there can be more. But then again, these are people who thoughts and aspirations are alight with such beautiful imagery and they have their ways of coping, given to them by Molina - this way of gazing and this way of mining all of the details for their small, if depressing merits. They are people who will think this, “I’ll think of the girl with the chestnut eyes and I’ll just fade away with a smile/And I’ll just fade away to blue,” and that’s okay. They’re okay.
Rest In Peace, Mr. Molina.