Remembering Jason Molina: Olentangy John’s Tribute

olentangyjohn

As part of a series called “Remembering Jason Molina,” I’m collecting stories about Jason and his impact on songwriters, musicians, and music writers. These are all individual tributes, on how Jason has affected their music, their perception of music, or just anecdotes on meeting him or seeing him live. Each story is being posted to promote the new album Farewell Transmission: The Music of Jason Molina, which not only celebrates Jason’s music, but will also help the Molina family and MusiCares with its proceeds.

Olentangy John (a.k.a. John Atzberger) explains the personal importance of Jason’s songwriting and their mutual Ohioan roots. John has also included a heartfelt cover of “Whip-Poor-Will” produced by Drew Nix. Keeping within the original context of the song, John like many of us is sending up these prayerful words begging Jason to “sing it one more time” for those of us who “ain’t doing very well” and “got left behind”. Jason, we hope you’re not too busy ringing that bell and enjoying a peaceful existence wherever you are.

Photo by Wes Frazer

Photo by Wes Frazer

I came to Jason Molina’s music through a songwriter I was backing on banjo in 2007. At the time I had just moved to New York and was starving, literally and artistically. Ed Gorch is one of my favorite writers and he saved my life in many ways. He’d also feed me and give me beer at rehearsals which made them a pretty important part of my early city life. At some point he threw a version of “Lioness” into our set. I could tell that the song was something different, structurally and in it’s dark language. It struck me as almost prayerful in it’s intimacy, but still full of such strong narrative and imagery. It’s a shining example of what a song can be. Personal, simple in structure but simultaneously expansive in the world it creates.

Even after that it took me a year or two to fully begin my investigation of this songwriter. Jason Molina is from a town over from my Dad, a part of Ohio that I spent a lot of my holidays and day trips going to. Jason’s imagery for me is rooted in that Cleveland landscape, “ghostly steel and iron ore” but includes such rich rural tones too. It speaks to me deeply as Ohioan and thereby more broadly, American. Jason’s music is a testament to what songs can be. Knowing that Jason was out in the world making songs in the corners of the country was calming to me. It was proof of the idea that one might survive being a songwriter. Needless to say his death is a tragedy and honestly, it scares the shit out of me. I often wonder whether the work is worth it. And through Jason’s example, and his body of work I come back to the conclusion, that there isn’t a value judgement applied to it. We write songs because we can’t not write songs. Jason Molina taught me that. Ed Gorch teaches me that. Jason’s songs are way-points of one gone before. They serve as guideposts for me in my work. They are something that makes the work feel less lonely no matter how hard it gets. We should all strive to write as personally and singularly as Jason did, at all costs.

– Olentangy John






Purchase Farewell Transmission: The Music of Jason Molina: Amazon; iTunes
Jason Molina: Website; Secretly Canadian; Graveface Records
Magnolia Electric Co.: Website; Secretly Canadian; Facebook
Olentangy John: Website; Facebook; Twitter

Remembering Jason Molina: Gary Calhoun James’ Tribute

Gary Calhoun James - Box of Baby Birds

As part of a series called “Remembering Jason Molina,” I’m collecting stories about Jason and his impact on songwriters, musicians, and music writers. These are all individual tributes, on how Jason has affected their music, their perception of music, or just anecdotes on meeting him or seeing him live. Each story is being posted to promote the new album Farewell Transmission: The Music of Jason Molina, which not only celebrates Jason’s music, but will also help the Molina family and MusiCares with its proceeds.

Today’s remembrance is from Box of Baby Birds’ Gary Calhoun James, who discusses Jason’s willingness to take him under his wing while giving him an opportunity to open a show at Schuba’s. To many who knew Jason this is how they remember him — generous, friendly, helpful, and wise.

Box of Baby Birds contributed their version of “Didn’t It Rain” to Farewell Transmission continuing Jason’s spirit of generosity and lending a helping hand to struggling musicians who are trying to find their way. Although Jason never found his way back from his struggles with alcohol, he was always a good Samaritan to those musicians who were struggling to find their path and voice as artists.

molina_in_lights_large

I first heard the music of Jason Molina around 2003 when I picked up a copy of Songs:Ohia’s Magnolia Electric Co. at a record shop in Chicago. From the iconic lap steel opening melody to the lilt of the closing plaintive plea, I was hooked. Serendipitously, the new Magnolia Electric Co. would play just days later in Milwaukee and my friend and I dropped everything to go. What hit me first was the power Jason and the band had. A huge, natural and open sound. The band, the lyrics, the recordings, it was so honest. This honesty is what resonated with me and anyone else nursing a thoughtful mind and a broken heart. I could not pick up the back catalog fast enough, and I fell for his first record (The Black Album) just as hard.

Jason was the midwest’s poet laureate. He would describe my hometown and the surrounding country with a poet’s tongue. He would remind you to notice.

“Its finally looking good up there our skyline, see how it fits right in there with heaven, the constellations and Comiskey’s lights.”

In 2006, I had the great fortune of opening for Jason with my group Lacona while he was holding a solo residency at Schuba’s in Chicago. I reached out to Jason and he said yes. I remember he said something like it’s just that easy, ask and you shall receive. I went to every one of those shows, it was great talking to Jason and spending time with him. His voice was amazing during that time, the best I ever heard it. He did not even need to play the guitar, his voice was so huge it would fill the room and barely leave space for you.

I am so thankful for the opportunity to explore one of Songs:Ohia’s compositions for the making of Farewell Transmission: The Music of Jason Molina. The experience has helped me to reflect on the gifts of a great artist who has been a major influence and inspiration. I hope this helps all who need it. Thank you for everything Jason!

-Gary Calhoun James
Box of Baby Birds

Purchase Farewell Transmission: The Music of Jason Molina: Amazon; iTunes
Jason Molina: Website; Secretly Canadian; Graveface Records
Magnolia Electric Co.: Website; Secretly Canadian; Facebook
Box of Baby Birds: Website; Facebook; Twitter; Bandcamp

Remembering Jason Molina: A Music Blogger’s Tribute

beatsurrender

As part of a series called “Remembering Jason Molina,” I’m collecting stories about Jason and his impact on songwriters, musicians, and music writers. These are all individual tributes, on how Jason has affected their music, their perception of music, or just anecdotes on meeting him or seeing him live. Each story is being posted to surround and promote the new album Farewell Transmission: The Music of Jason Molina, which not only celebrates Jason’s music, but will also help the Molina family and MusiCares with its proceeds.

Today’s tribute comes from friend and fellow music blogger, Simon, who owns and operates Beat Surrender. If you’re not familiar with the site, go check it out.

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I came to Jason’s music during the later part of his work and at the transition from Songs: Ohia to Magnolia Electric Co., the key that opened the door to his music for me was a track that appeared on a mixtape swap that I was involved in with a few friends – it’s somewhere hidden amongst the shelves and boxes of CD’s that surround me in the room I’m sitting in as I attempt to put into words what Jason’s music came to mean to me – that song was ”The Dark Don’t Hide It.”

When I heard the news about Jason’s death it was the words and music to ”The Dark Don’t Hide It” that were awakened and flooded into my head and from which I wrote a few words on Beat Surrender in tribute to the “tortured soul who could not run or hide from his own darkness but through his words and music gave strength to many to deal with their own demons – may he rest in peace.”

“The Dark Don’t Hide It” led me to the Magnolia Electric Co. album What Comes After the Blues and from there backwards to Jason’s Songs: Ohio and Pyramid Electric Co. work, I’m not sure prolific is the right word to use but Jason was not one it appears to sit back on his songs or to hive them away for another day creating an amazing body of work from ’97 through to ’09  - this I’m sure was linked to his illness to the alcohol dependance and depression, the need to communicate, the search for meaning, attempts to cast out the demons through creativity. It’s interesting to read Will Johnson’s tribute to Jason where he talks about how he worked on songs “with the care and attention of a gifted and obsessed technician”, of his tirelessness and dedication to the muse.

Sometimes listening to Jason’s music is not easy, I don’t mean it’s a chore, I mean to say it can be painful, for me personally it can cause me to question events,  decisions made, words used, actions taken and it can take me into the shadows and darkness – but often lead me to an answer, to a new meaning or possibility and ultimately to a healing of the mind – there’s a powerful redemptive quality in Jason’s songs, that rare combination of lyrics,  voice and arrangements affect in a way that few artists can and for that his music will always hold a special place in my head and heart.

–Simon, Beat Surrender






Purchase Farewell Transmission: The Music of Jason Molina: Amazon; iTunes
Jason Molina: Website; Secretly Canadian; Graveface Records
Magnolia Electric Co.: Website; Secretly Canadian; Facebook

Remembering Jason Molina: Psalmships’ Tribute

As part of a series called “Remembering Jason Molina,” I’m collecting stories about Jason and his impact on songwriters, musicians, and music writers. These are all individual tributes, on how Jason has affected their music, their perception of music, or just anecdotes on meeting him or seeing him live. Each story is being posted to surround and promote the new album Farewell Transmission: The Music of Jason Molina, which not only celebrates Jason’s music, but will also help the Molina family and MusiCares with its proceeds.

It has been a busy summer — at work and at home — and I feel horrible for neglecting the blog and this series, but I will neglect it no more. I am breathing life back into it with these beautifully written words and haunting cover of “Ocean’s Nerve” from Joshua Britton, better known as Psalmships.

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I first heard Songs: Ohia in Vermont, cold forests and dark skies surrounding me, and without hesitation it changed everything. Not the external sort of change where you move or break up with someone or see things differently (though they all followed suit), but the kind of change that’s probably already occurred inside, and takes a jolt for you to finally see it in place, at work. Molina was a jolt, to me and so many people; those of us that seem to prostrate at his altar are merely paying our respects to a person who meant more in the decade he published music than his passing can ever commemorate. His songwriting was patriotic (for the land rather than its “conquerors”) and highly spiritual to even the casual listener, and he composed simply, so that no matter the depths of pain or heights of awareness, no one felt left behind – everyone was understood when broken down enough. The animals always present on each album are totems, representing our collective strengths and weaknesses, and sometimes his personal seductions and demons. The pastoral settings, however rough or calm, serve as reminders of home or feared destinations. And throughout it all, never a lack of confidence or, rather, purpose; a “servant singing soldier,” trying to serve himself rightly. He’s been for me part-anthropologist, part-disenfranchised guide through the endless black. His flame will flicker on the shore for all my days at sea.

– JB, 22.April.2014 9:56pm

Purchase Farewell Transmission: The Music of Jason Molina: Amazon; iTunes
Jason Molina: Website; Secretly Canadian; Graveface Records
Magnolia Electric Co.: Website; Secretly Canadian; Facebook
Psalmship: Website; Facebook; Twitter; YouTube; Bandcamp

Remembering Jason Molina: Viking Moses’ Tribute

vikingmoses

As part of a series called “Remembering Jason Molina,” I’m collecting stories about Jason and his impact on songwriters, musicians, and music writers. These are all individual tributes, on how Jason has affected their music, their perception of music, or just anecdotes on meeting him or seeing him live. Each story is being posted to surround and promote the new album Farewell Transmission: The Music of Jason Molina, which not only celebrates Jason’s music, but will also help the Molina family and MusiCares with its proceeds.

Today we have Viking Moses discussing the first time he met Jason and the generosity that helped his career. Jason’s kindness comes as no surprise for those who knew him. He was a passionate man who was loyal and warm. And, as Viking Moses explains, it is this devotion as well as his commitment to songwriting that can be heard throughout his songs.

I met Jason Molina in December 2000 at a show we played together at The Galaxy Hut in Arlington, Virginia. He was traveling solo supporting the release of Ghost Tropic. I was traveling via Amtrak.

After the Galaxy Hut show Jason offered me a lift to Philadelphia, and he gave me a generous portion of the cash from the show — completely unexpected!

He was driving this swanky rented town car. He seemed mortified, declaring that he’d never opt for a luxury sedan, that the rental company forced the upgrade since they didn’t have the economy model he’d reserved.

On the car ride he asked me to reach down and grab the binder from under the passenger seat. It was his tour itinerary. He welcomed me to stay along and open up as many of the shows as I wished. Each night he’d put me on stage after the scheduled support acts, and right before his own set, the choicest spot to be exposed to new audiences.

I remember there being only one cd in the car: Lovers Rock by Sade. We listened to this on repeat for days and days through the wintery white landscapes of Northeastern United States.

I felt very close to him the years following. We were living nearby one another in Chicago. We took several more road trips. He helped me record a few albums. He introduced me to his label Secretly Canadian who at the time were a 3-man outfit operating out of their house in Bloomington, Indiana. He constantly had a record or a book for me to absorb, a friend of his in town I should meet for dinner, a show I should head to. He opened countless doors of insight, friendship, and action for me.

I chose to record “The Lioness” for this tribute, firstly, because it’s one of the most beautiful and powerful love songs I’ve ever encountered, and secondly, I feel it’s a perfect example of Jason’s dedication to others… “if you can’t get here fast enough, I will swim to you.”

Didn’t It Rain, and Magnolia Electric Company are his works to which I feel closest, however, because this time we shared so closely and briefly was the time he was composing and recording these albums. For me, they are embodiments of selfless generosity, guidance, courage, and above all else, friendship.

-Brendon Massei of Viking Moses, Ferrara Italia, 19 April 2014.






Purchase Farewell Transmission: The Music of Jason Molina: Amazon; iTunes
Jason Molina: Website; Secretly Canadian; Graveface Records
Magnolia Electric Co.: Website; Secretly Canadian; Facebook
Viking Moses: Website; Facebook; Twitter; Bandcamp

Remembering Jason Molina: Doc Feldman’s Tribute (Feat. Brothers Lazaroff)

doc feldman

As part of a series called “Remembering Jason Molina,” I’m collecting stories about Jason and his impact on songwriters, musicians, and music writers. These are all individual tributes, on how Jason has affected their music, their perception of music, or just anecdotes on meeting him or seeing him live. Each story is being posted to surround and promote the new album Farewell Transmission: The Music of Jason Molina, which not only celebrates Jason’s music, but will also help the Molina family and MusiCares with its proceeds.

Today’s tribute is a real treat! My good friend, Doc Feldman, honestly reflects on the immense impact Jason has had on him as a songwriter in his meaningful tribute. And, I’m sure anyone who has heard Jason’s songs can relate. However, Doc took it one step further. He met up with his friends and former bandmates, Brothers Lazaroff, to record this “cathartic”, bluesy, jazzy, laid-back cover of “Let Me Go Let Me Go Let Me Go”, which you can listen to at the end of this post. And, although the version is more relaxed, he has handled the song with a beautiful, melancholy reverence that only a seasoned songwriter and bluesman can. It’s a tribute that will leave you saying “FUCK.”

(P.S.: I threw in Doc covering Jason’s song “The Old Horizon.”)

Photo by Forest Casey

Photo by Forest Casey

I was recently asked during a songwriter-in-the-round type night to talk about and then perform a song from an artist that had a big influence on me. I grew up listening to The Grateful Dead, Bob Dylan, Pink Floyd, The Beatles, and the Allman Brothers, so there was of course that kind of Mount Rushmore of Rock n Roll that seeped into my soul. I’ve been through phases of my life where I’d listen to nothing but the blues, or old timey music, or country music from the 70s, or even non-stop Reggae or free jazz for months or even years on straight. There have of course been extremely influential artists that I’ve actually played with and exchanged ideas with over the years who have had a direct and profound impact on my songwriting. But outside of those experiences, there’s really only one modern “contemporary” artist that stands out as a profound influence on me, and that’s Jason Molina. Though I never met him in person, since first hearing his music (and immediately consuming everything I could find of his), I’ve just always felt a profoundly personal connection with him. One that isn’t easily explained I suppose.

Jason was magikal, and I mean that in the absolute best Crowley-esque way. He was dark and mysterious. He was sad and vulnerable. He could bite and sink his teeth in hard. He was comforting in his raw beauty. His guitar could kick your fucking ass if it wanted to, and it was devastating when it did. And that voice! Holy shit that voice could kill. It had an unyielding power replete with lightning bolts of melancholia that sizzled and burned on your skin like a brand or tattoo when it would strike. Upon first hearing him, I just remember being awestruck; my bottom jaw opened; and me muttering some monosyllabic tone like, “fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuucckk!” I doubt I’m the only one to have had that same feeling of wonderment with him. As I dove deeper, I became obsessed with his ability to hold back. I loved his willingness to slow the fuck down and try to be in the moment in every moment. No movement or intonation or breath was wasted. He was willing to be vulnerable in both his lyrical content and musical delivery with the greatest kind of “fuck you, this is all I got, so take it or leave it” kind of attitude though not in a dismissive way towards others but in the most beautiful-of-inviting-others-to-share-in-this-freedom type of way. He was incredibly inspiring to me, and I’m so grateful to have found his music along life’s journey. I was truly saddened as many of us were when we learned that he had passed and was ultimately unsuccessful in overcoming his abuse and addiction to alcohol. I think the world has been seriously cheated out of having such a songwriter (and man for that matter) still with us to continue to share of himself and his musical vision.

I recorded this version of “Let Me Go Let Me Go Let Me Go,” the title track off Molina’s 2006 solo release, with my good friends Brothers Lazaroff. The band; consisting of David and Jeff Lazaroff on electric guitars, Grover Stewart on drums, Teddy Brookins on acoustic bass, Mo Egeston on keyboards, and me playing acoustic guitar and singing; recorded this song in David’s home studio. Everything was recorded live with just one take if I remember correctly. The only real “overdub” was David going back over the intro with all sorts of crazy sounds and noises and then mixing the tracks, which to me now totally makes this version for me. The track was then mastered graciously by the absolutely fantastic Jacob Detering of Red Pill Entertainment. It was a tribute that was totally cathartic and satisfying for me to get to do with such great artists and even better people.

–Derek (aka Doc) Feldman









Purchase Farewell Transmission: The Music of Jason Molina: Amazon; iTunes
Jason Molina: Website; Secretly Canadian; Graveface Records
Magnolia Electric Co.: Website; Secretly Canadian; Facebook
Doc Feldman: Website; Facebook; Twitter; Bandcamp
Brothers Lazaroff: Website; Facebook; Twitter; YouTube; Bandcamp

Remembering Jason Molina: Gabriel Douglas’ Tribute

Gabriel Douglas

As part of a series called “Remembering Jason Molina,” I’m collecting stories about Jason and his impact on songwriters, musicians, and music writers. These are all individual tributes, on how Jason has affected their music, their perception of music, or just anecdotes on meeting him or seeing him live. Each story is being posted to surround and promote the new album Farewell Transmission: The Music of Jason Molina, which not only celebrates Jason’s music, but will also help the Molina family and MusiCares with its proceeds.

Lately, I’ve been very lax posting to the site. It’s not that I don’t want to post, it’s just the day job. If I could find a way to make money doing what I love, I’d quit my job in a heartbeat. So, I’ve finally found the time to post Gabriel Douglas’ tribute. A songwriter and prolific collaborator within the Minneapolis music community, Gabriel contributed his mournful rendition of “The Dark Don’t Hide It” to the album. Gabriel took Jason’s more up-tempo original and turned it into a heavy composition with the intention of slowly uncovering the honesty written by Jason while creating a sombre atmosphere. It’s actually best to listen to Gabriel’s version while reading his tribute. I promise, it’ll all come together then.

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I encountered Songs: Ohia in early 2004 as I was in the midst of college. Many nights were spent working on projects or out at bonfires with those songs jangling around. A good number of nights were spent with Jason’s songs & Lake Superior.

A lot of the songs still meander in & out of my driving playlists as I’m out touring. He’s got a lot of great songs that go with windshield gazing, especially at dusk or counting headlights on the overnight. Magnolia Electric Co. landed in my lap from a friend living in the Pacific Northwest a handful of years ago. “The Dark Don’t Hide It” completely knocked me off my feet. I’ve always enjoyed the coming clean, the calling a spade a spade, even the sneer that comes through many of his songs. Letting the unflattering moments get just as much time as the gems, is something I took from his music. Raw & refreshing is how his works came into my life.

He encapsulated the songwriter that can bring his songs & thoughts to a whisper, just him & a guitar, and then he can bring the next song to a full, expanding cavalcade of steel guitars, stacked vocals, & still the heartfelt undertones in every stanza, every outro, every break in his voice.He had a great grasp on bringing me into moments. My songs became more confident with being unfalteringly honest, keeping songs heated & bedded in the moments when the songs came to fruition after listening to his music. To let those experiences, good & bad, hopeful & frustrating, be a part of the music you create.

–Gabriel Douglas






Purchase Farewell Transmission: The Music of Jason Molina: Amazon; iTunes
Jason Molina: Website; Secretly Canadian; Graveface Records
Magnolia Electric Co.: Website; Secretly Canadian; Facebook
Gabriel Douglas: Facebook; Twitter; Youtube; Soundcloud