Songs: Ohia and Magnolia Electric Co. leader, singer-songwriter-genius Jason Molina, had passed away after a lifelong battle with alcoholism. In many circles, Molina's work, a prolific catalog of sad, dark, folksy, occasionally-uplifting, and always extremely beautiful songs, was and is revered. Molina's voice, a trademark strained caterwaul, was something that many people probably had a hard time connecting with. It was the words, though, that made the biggest impact on me.
My friend and coworker, Sean, led me to Molina's music through our office's shared sound system. Some days, I'll be honest, Songs: Ohia and Magnolia Electric Co., depressed the hell out of me. Sometimes it was just plain to hard to listen to. Yet, Axxess & Ace sticks with me note for note. I won't say that I can recite the lyrics from memory, or even along with the songs, but goddamn if I can't feel every single thing Molina says and find a parallel in my own history. There was something so incredibly timeless and aware about Molina's work that makes it undeniable.
Like fellow gone-too-soon artist Elliott Smith, Molina was a dark-side poet of life. He didn't write songs about sex or love or happiness or sadness in pop-ready terms. The hooks in his songs, of which there are many, would be unlikely to snare the casual radio listener. The western-classic slide guitar and plucky nature of his arrangements don't drive you to the dance floor or inspire a Journey-esque bar-wide sing-along. Instead, it was always poetry, dark, human, and in brief snapshots.
The Magnolia Electric Co. album by Songs: Ohia, the last before transitioning bands, features a song called "Old Black Hen," sung by vocalist Lawrence Peters in pristine, visceral, glory. That song changed my life. It changes my life every time I listen to it. And the "bad luck lullaby" refrain that strings that song together will always make me think of Jason Molina. He, who was so willing to put his heart on display in his music, to show everyone what he was made of, created so many powerful and potent songs that his short life was a gift to every audiophile.
The tragic nature of his passing will never be at the forefront of my mind because his legacy is as robust and untarnished as any artist in the public eye could ever hope for. Whatever pain and suffering he felt is now done, and he has left us all the great gift of a timeless library of honesty, truth, and impeccable music.
Thank you, Jason.
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