Songs: Ohia: Magnoia Electric (Secretly Canadian, 2003)

by Jason

Songs MagnoliaI honestly have a mixed reaction to this album. It’s one of those discs that you know is fantastic but still does not personally hit you where you like. This, of course, is a personal issue, not one that frankly reflects upon the artist. For one, I really don’t like alt-country, but Jason Molina is a master at its art. Although this is so, there are select songs on the disc that blew me away.

First off, Molina‘s David Byrne style vocals are great. He has that Byrne style, even in his country songs. He is a consummate singer/songwriter who is able to flavor his songs with a bit of country and a bit of rock and roll. My favorite song on the disc was “Peoria Lunch Box Blues.” Jennie Benford lends her gorgeous voice to this bluesy song which is a slow tempo song with guitar and accents of piano and drums. “John Henry Split My Heart” is also a highlight from this disc. It is a medium tempo song with a classic rock/singer songwriter feel.

Molina is also an earthy and poetic lyricist. He is a master of lyrical imagery. An excerpt from “Farewell Transmission” demonstrates his expertise.

Now they’ll be working in the cold grey rock, in the hot steam mill
… in the concrete/in the sirens and silences now all
the great set up hearts – all at once start to beat

I could feel the heat and toil from these lines and many others on the disc paint similar kinds of strong imagery that will take the listeners breath away.

Besides the fact that I am not a big fan of alt-country (i.e. “The Old Black Hen”), the songs on the disc do have a tendency to stretch out a little too long. “John Henry Split my Heart” is over six minutes long and “Hold on Magnolia” over seven minutes long. The songs feel like they were stretched out to fill time and I was waiting for the end or feeling like there was too much fat on the song.

Minus my critical remarks, I think the disc is a solid effort by Molina and company. If you are an alt-country fan, this definitely is a disc for you. If you are a singer/songwriter, you will appreciate Molina‘s powerful imagery and sense of melody and musical exposition. To each his own.

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