Didn't It Rain is Jason Molina's first perfect record. Recorded live in a single room, with no overdubs and musicians creating their parts on the fly, the overall approach to the recording was nothing new for Molina. But something in the air and execution of Didn't It Rain clearly sets it apart from his existing body of work. His albums had always been full of space, but never had Molina sculpted the space as masterfully as he does on Didn't It Rain.
Almost 20 years after Jason Molina’s voice first rang out from Ohio, in this brave new world of streaming, the discussion surrounding the resurgence of vinyl rarely includes the 7”. The original and re-imagined underground aural morsels once housed in the format are now buried in digital EPs and embeddable media. The tangible, wax-fabricated evidence of a self-producing culture of creativity has given way to this modern age. But it is our hope that Molina’s unabashed utterances and refusal of trend are honored across the 18 sides of this collection—a thoughtfully resurrected series of tokens to a great artist gone too soon, to hear and to hold, and to live on in those who were there and those who wish they would have been. Gathered within 'Journey On: Collected Singles' are the charming, haunting and — much like the totality of the Songs: Ohia catalogue — elegantly disparate moments lost in the void of limited pressings and merch tables at last-minute shows that Molina often booked mid-tour from payphones across the country. Throughout the band’s storied course Molina’s creative prolificacy often outran the pace and resources of pre-laptop production, which is why the 7” record became an integral component to the dynamism of Songs: Ohia.
We know “Freedom Pt. 2” and “Soul” as the Nor Cease Thou Never Now 7” on Palace Records that, in 1996, breathed life into Songs: Ohia as we know it. Those two tracks cleared the course for the impassioned, front-and-center quaver we’d invite into our headphones over — depending how you count them — seven proper studio LPs, three EPs, and numerous singles and tour-only releases during the life of Songs: Ohia. “Cabwaylingo,” the captivating acoustic opener of the 1997 self-titled “Black Album," memorable in its flourishes of brushed drums, meandering banjo and of course, that voice, is resurrected here as “Vanquisher,” a haunting 1998 reimagining in which Molina convinces us that there are “fewer greater former ghosts” over gentle electric guitar lines as clear as his hushed-yet-confident oration. The beloved “Lioness” reappears with the addition of Molina collaborator and comrade Jennie Benford of Jim & Jennie And The Pinetops, lending a powerfully somber layer to “the look of the lioness to her man across the Nile."
These are but a few of the gems mined from the caverns of the Songs: Ohia singles spanning the six years until Molina’s hushed formation of the Magnolia Electric Co. It’s here we relive his generous and honest performances, his humor and his heart. These aren’t the maudlin ramblings so often pegged in the press, but the triumphant tales spun from the mind of an ordinary Midwestern man as goofy as he was fervent, who was able to execute an extraordinary body of work in a short amount of time.
The hallmark of Jason Molina's career, Magnolia Electric Co., is both a confluence of all he would create and a line in the sand to mark a shift in his songwriting approach. It was the last statement under his iconic Songs: Ohia moniker, and the moment before he began making new legends as Magnolia Electric Co. for the next 10 years. Now— here at the end of that decade — with Molina gone, his work gathers more weight and meaning. This expanded 10-year anniversary edition of Magnolia Electric Co. features one never-before-released track plus many rarities. The full-band studio outtake of fan favorite "Whip Poor Will" is a sweet and spare version that ended up being played far differently on Magnolia Electric Co.'s final album Josephine (2009). Also included is the studio version of "The Big Game Is Every Night." Previously only available on the Japanese version of the album, this opus serves as Molina's thesis statement, its poetry weaving through the 20th Century, through art and sporting culture — ultimately questioning what it means to be an American in the autumn of the American Era. The edition also gathers Molina's gutting demos for the record, including those two outtakes. Nearly each begins with audible sound of the RECORD button being pressed down on the tape player. They are so close and intimate, it's hard to look them right in the eyes. But you should.
Secretly Canadian is proud to announce the 15th Anniversary reissue of a Songs: Ohia classic, the Hecla & Griper EP, now appearing for the first time on vinyl with previously unreleased bonus material.
After spending the summer of 1997 on the road, Jason Molina and Co. headed into Bloomington, Ind. studio The Grotto with producer Dan Burton and layed down these eight songs. Odes to the love of loss and reggae friends. If you have ever found the other pillow empty in the morning, this is what you need to dry your tears. It also features a Conway Twitty cover.
This vinyl reissue contains two previously unreleased Songs: Ohia tracks ("Debts" and "Pilot & Friend") and alternative versions of two songs that would later appear on Songs: Ohia's Impala ("Hearts Newly Arrived (Hecla Session)" and "One of Those Uncertain Hands (Hecla Session).
NOW AVAILABLE: Secretly Canadian is excited to release this long-unavailable, sought-after release.
The Ghost is a dark affair.
As a matter of content, its themes are bleak, on the verge of total blackness. Loneliness, alienation, desperation, and dark, anxious nights. As a matter of atmosphere, the album is even darker. Surface noise has never been so important to a record’s mood and tone. Yes, it sounds like it was recorded on a highway, but this is a dark fucking highway at a lonely, desperate hour and the only set of keys you have are those to the car that won’t take you any closer to home. It’s dead and you’re scared and totally alone. It’s just such an occasion that Jason Molina sings and plays of in a roundabout way on The Ghost. Recorded in one day direct to Jason’s boom box with the tiny little microphone, this brand new batch of songs was written in a very short period in the early months of 1999. For Jason, fidelity was never an issue, in fact it was a tool. The boom box’s inefficient battery-powered motor is just as integral to the recording as the vocal and guitar performance that occurred that February afternoon in Jason’s room on his day off of work. This recording may be noisy but it is not a demo. It was originally made available in limited quantities—to be sold on the Songs: Ohia tour of the East Coast with Drunkin the Spring of 1999 and the European tour in the early Summer 1999, however Secretly Canadian recently discovered enough parts of this release to resurrect it one more time.
On the eve of the release of the first release by the Jason Molina-fronted Magnolia Electric Co. (a double-live album which will be available in stores in January 2005), Secretly Canadian is proud to make three classic Songs: Ohia albums available to the public on vinyl for the first time in years. The self-titled debut full-length (1996, Secretly Canadian) is a classic, standing as a beacon shining through the storm for what we call today, in 2004, "new folkies". Out of print on vinyl since mid-1998 (originally released in two pressings of 500), it will come in a stunning triple-gatefold jacket which includes expanded artwork as well as the bonus song which is not on the CD version but was on the vinyl editions. Also being repressed are Songs: Ohia's third album Axxess & Ace (out of print since its release in March 1999) and fourth album The Lioness (2000, Secretly Canadian) — the latter being widely regarded as one of Molina's finest albums.
Never has a Songs: Ohia album's process been so integral to its overall feel as is the case with DIDN'T IT RAIN, the band's sixth proper full-length. The album, like the working class South Philadelphia neighborhood in which it was birthed, has a real used goods kinda feel to it. Engineer Edan Cohen employed what some may consider "old-fashioned" recording techniques -- the entire album was recorded live with no overdubs, the full band playing in one room with the players always within arms' reach of one another; singers Jason Molina, Jennie Benford and Jim Krewson (the latter two of Jim & Jennie And The Pinetops) sharing microphones singing live together, sometimes sitting in chairs, sometimes standing. The result is a sound which resembles the warmth and personality of the classic Muscle Shoals Sound recordings of the early- to mid-70s: Willie Nelson's PHASES & STAGES, the Rolling Stones' "Wild Horses", and others by Aretha Franklin, Boz Scaggs, Bob Seger, Lynyrd Skynyrd and Wilson Pickett.
Inspired by the Mahalia Jackson song of the same name, the title track is a beautiful song about the shifting tides of life and the old cycle of "a lot of shit going down before shit clears up". It's a damn fine place to start an album that seems in no hurry whatsoever to make a universal statement, instead perfectly content to walk its own path toward resolution. And damn if Songs: Ohia principal songwriter Jason Molina hasn't gone and created a record that is even more intensely personal and healing than any of his previous works. Neil Young had his AFTER THE GOLDRUSH, this is Molina's DIDN'T IT RAIN. Indeed, this is the album with which Molina really leaves his mark as a serious songwriter and artist. On 1999's genre-bending Ghost Tropic full-length, Songs: Ohia made it clear that it could make a cohesive album that took its listener on a journey from front to back. Its dislocated feel set a haunting tone, and its largely instrumental and drone-like quality was the process of the Ohia eluding itself and its own tendencies, searching for the underside of its roots freshly yanked. With DIDN'T IT RAIN, Molina & Co. return to the beauty of the song form and offer up a startlingly soulful and introspective song cycle in which Molina -- accepting a comfortable degree of anonymity amongst the other players -- meditates on what it means to feel rooted again (in the city of Chicago, where he's called home for the past three years), sounding more sturdy at his core than ever.
The sound movement on GHOST TROPIC will seem sudden to some; without warning. To others, it'll seem a very logical step in a very foreign direction. On its fifth proper full-length, Songs: Ohia has stepped outside the box and has delivered its most subtle record of fantastic depth to date. Indeed this is the most cohesive and "album-like" Songs: Ohia has ever been. The eight songs on the record sprawl out into one another, telling one long sonic tale, allowing very little room for chapter breaks or piss stops. In this regard, Lou Reed's moody classic BERLIN comes to mind as a worthy fore-bearer. But it's the strange ethnic flavor in which GHOST TROPIC is steeped that makes it stand apart from its predecessors, albums which were all received as crossing guards for the Great American lost highway. Surely this album will leave those expecting such fare scratching their heads. Blending the electro-acoustic minimalism of the David Bowie and Brian Eno Trilogy with the percussive worldliness of Tom Waits' SWORDFISHTROMBONES, the group seems to hop the globe from a British Isles folk rock influence to an Ennio Morricone-like Spaghetti Western feel to the faintest echoes of the Chinese Classical ringing like a death murmur in the distance. And the songs, they build in a slow, unconscious manner, pulsing with an intensity, but never betraying their most simple core with too much instrumentation or calculated progression. Yea! GHOST TROPIC is the first album which reveals Songs: Ohia's own Tropicalia Blues in full bloom.
But what has brought Songs: Ohia to this critical juncture? Perhaps it is purely circumstance -- that four men were brought together to play as bedfellows for a week on the great plains of Nebraska. Acted out and recorded at the Dead Space Recording Studio in the state's capital of Lincoln, GHOST TROPIC was performed by principle Songs: Ohia songwriter, singer and guitarist Jason Molina; Appendix Out principle and Ohia alumnus (having played on THE LIONESS) Alasdair Roberts of Glasgow, Scotland; Lullaby For The Working Class drummer and new Ohia recruit Shane Aspegren; and engineer Mike Mogis of Lullaby For The Working Class and Bright Eyes.
Opening with an epic and ending with a little spartan ode, THE LIONESS is songwriter Jason Molina's fourth and most dynamic and empassioned full-length album to date. Recorded at Chem19 Studio in Glasgow, Scotland, with his Glaswegian friends Aidan Moffat and David Gow of Arab Strap, and Alasdair Roberts of Appendix Out, as well as with Songs: Ohia veterans Geof Comings and Jonathan Cargill, it is, on its exterior, a much darker affair than each of its predecessors. Perhaps it was the Scottish weather and company which gave it such a feel, for at the core of THE LIONESS, there is a warmth and tenderness unmatched by previous Songs: Ohia recordings. Indeed, this is a dark and sultry record, but not a melancholy one. While the last Songs: Ohia album AXXESS & ACE was an album which revealed many of the painful truths about love through its loss, this is an album about the beauty of love as seen from its rich foundational and experiential stages.
Songs: Ohia is Jason Molina. On Axxess & Ace he is assisted by Geof Comings (Party Girls), Michael Krassner (the Lofty Pillars, Boxhead Ensemble, Edith Frost Band), Joe Ferguson (Pinetop Seven), Dave Pavkovic (Boxhead Ensemble), Julie Liu (Rex) and Edith Frost. It was recorded by Krassner at his Truckstop Studios in Chicago. What resulted was the most full-sounding Songs: Ohia record to date. Liu's aching violin playing with Molina's desperate vocals transport the songs to great depths.
"There is no bullshit on this record. It's a love song record, so I wrote as directly to the point as I could. There is nothing snarling or cynical anywhere on the record. It is not invented stuff either. It's a desperate record, it's a jealous record, it's an imperfect record. It is also as incomplete as a man. This record wasn't made to rid me of any doubts or to heal me. The end result should show a man, anxious to learn, anxious to share, anxious to curtail all that is selfish. A note about the record as physical fact: it was done almost entirely live and first take. None of us were paid and the musicians all heard these songs for the first time on the day we made the record. Needless to say we could never have predicted the range and the urgency of this record's atmosphere. We are all very proud of this new Songs: Ohia record Axxess & Ace."
The fabled second Songs: Ohia full-length, originally released in 1998 on cd by Happy Go Lucky and lp by Secretly Canadian, will enjoy a re-release by Secretly Canadian this August. The new version of the cd will have expanded artwork and will be widely available around the globe. Still available on LP as well.
Lorain, Ohio; it's a tough place to grow up. You either escape or you don't. Given the industry that exists (or existed) there - the steel mill, Ford plant, and shipyard - the mix of people is like none other. One thing is for sure though, it's blue collar through and through. What's this have to do with a new release from Songs: Ohia? Well, Jason - main Songs man, like myself, grew up in this god-forsaken hole of a city and as much as you can leave the city, it never leaves you.IMPALA offers further testament to the songwriting talents of Jason Molina. The 13 tracks contained herein offer a glimpse into the soul of a man burdened with trying to exorcise the demons of life, loss, and subsistence. This isn't something one can fake. It comes from growing up with the knowledge that the factories your parents worked in are not an option for you and that your only real option is to try and get out (easier said than done).
Paired down to only Jason and Geof Comings for this release, the tracks on IMPALA are simultaneously the sparsest and most textured yet to be released by the band. Consider this to be the most honest and strongest release yet from Songs: Ohia. Our suggestion; Head to the local Knight's of Columbus, grab a seat at the bar, order a Genesee, and drink away your pay check to this one. That's what they're doing in Lorain.