A few years ago I missed two gigs that I really wanted to see. One was Jack Rose playing solo (ex-Pelt) and the other was Jason Molina (of Songs:Ohia and Magnolia Electric Co. fame). Jack Rose died just a few months later, and despite my careful monitoring of his touring schedule, Jason Molina never played in the UK again. Last week Jason Molina also died of organ failure, after a prolonged fight with illness.
I first heard Jason Molina in The Star in Oxford. The song was Blue Factory Flame from the Songs:Ohia album Didn’t It Rain:
When i die put my bones in an empty street to remind me of how it used to be
don’t write my name on a stone bring a Coleman lantern and a radio
Cleveland game and two fishing poles and watch with me from the shore
ghostly steel and iron ore ships coming home
where i am paralyzed by the emptiness
It affected me as soon as I heard it. His lyrics were astonishing and the basic instrumentation the perfect accompaniment. In many ways it’s not surprising to learn that Jason struggled with alcohol addiction, which ultimately brought about his untimely death, but it is heartbreaking.
Few people have the ability to write music that captures emotion so viscerally. By the time the next song was halfway through I knew I’d be listening to this music for years to come. Chatting to the barman, it was clear he felt the same way.
When the bells ring twelve times in hell, the bells ring twelve times in this town as well.
If Jason had only written Didn’t It Rain, he would absolutely have been a major part of my life. Instead he was an incredibly prolific artist, and I’ve spent the last week listening to every one of them. As Magnolia Electric Co. he assembled a band that brought a more full sound to his songs. The strength at the core of this music is still his extraordinary songwriting however. Such Pretty Eyes For A Snake from Trials And Errors is one such example:
A lot of people are compared to Nick Drake. I don’t really think comparisons are particularly useful, and seem to be mostly used cynically by marketing departments to shift records. I do think there is a shared spirit between Nick Drake, Jason Molina and Jack Rose though.
Few people can create music that moves you on a spiritual level, but it’s standard for these guys. I hope you listen to some of this and feel equally moved.
The last word must go to Jason, and these are the introductory lyrics from the above track from album, Josephine:
She said “I’ve been the stockyard’s pony”
She said “I’ve been the mountain engine’s roll
From Chicago to West Virginia,
I’ve been as lonesome as the world’s first ghost
As lonesome as the world’s first ghost
But out here even the prairie doubts the horizon
All I have to do is prove that I’m not pure
Oh, the right words come,
But I ain’t talking
The devil’s mean but he’s honest just as sure
Oh, he is honest just as sure”