Elephant Micah – Where in Our Woods

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It has been so long since I’ve actually posted something other than a Molina tribute, so I may be a bit out of practice. Please bear with me as I try to get back to my ol’ bloggin’ self, and as I do, I would like to begin with Elephant Micah’s new album Where in Our Woods, which is absolutely stunning.

Elephant Micah, also known as Joseph O’Connell, takes a little departure from his previous albums on Where in Our Woods. On this album, O’Connell leaves the experimenting behind and opts to take a more traditional folk path. On it you’ll hear a more stripped-down sound with just vocals, guitar, a pump organ, and drums (provided by his brother, Matthew O’Connell) weaving in and out of tales of his childhood home in Indiana. A folklorist by trade, O’Connell has always used his profession to create interesting stories, but his talent shines remarkably bright on Where in Our Woods because of its collection of masterfully minimal songs. And, as the ever consummate folklorist, O’Connell anthropomorphizes vultures giving them a voice bemoaning the fast-paced world by the adoption of Daylight Savings Time in “Slow Time Vultures”, while he combines three stories taken from the headlines of his hometown newspaper in “Albino Animals”: hunters killing an albino deer, a hometown rower’s disastrous transatlantic passage, and drug addicts avoiding prosecution after setting a trailer on fire cooking meth. These are just a couple of beautifully crafted songs from an extremely exquisite album that showcases O’Connell’s ability to write captivating Midwestern narratives. And, it is an album that has kept me company through this cold and harsh winter.





Buy Where in Our Woods
Elephant Micah: Website; Twitter; Bandcamp

Remembering Jason Molina: John Calvin Abney’s Tribute

Photo by Erin Margaret Rambo

Photo by Erin Margaret Rambo

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 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 tribute comes from Oklahoma singer-songwriter, John Calvin Abney, whose pensive remembrance addresses Jason’s music and it’s affects on him as an artist as well as Jason’s death. John has also contributed an equally reverent cover of the prophetic “Soul” that I’m sharing at the end of this post. John continues the soul-bearing, bear-bones structure of the original, that begs us to ask: “Tell all of your friends that you are bound for glory. How long did you know that you’d make it there before me? What is it like? Is it worth the misfortune?” And, of course Jason answers it at the end.

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I never met Jason Molina, nor did I ever have the chance to see him
perform. However, this did not keep his music from affecting me in
subtle and strange ways. My girlfriend at the time and fellow musician
Samantha Crain introduced me to Magnolia Electric Company and
Songs:Ohia by looping these records in the van on- and off-tour.
Samantha was always telling me how important his songs were to her
growth as an artist and a few other friends back in Oklahoma who had
opened up for MEC before praised Molina’s quiet, yet thunderous
approach to songwriting and full-band attacks.

I was touring through southern Mississippi with my band when I heard
of his passing. In a small flash of synchronicity, I had purchased
“The Lioness” about a week beforehand for backseat listening to help
the long hours clocked on the highway. Up until that point, all of my
experiences of Molina’s music were through the filter of other’s
perspectives. It wasn’t until I was crammed between a guitar amplifier
and a deteriorating car door in the pitch blackness of a Mississippi
highway at night, did I truly begin to understand why people felt so
strongly about these songs. A harrowing, worried voice depicted
symbols and situations that brought to mind memories that may not have
even been my own. A little bit of light running through a whole lot of
dark. I got a text message from Sam and she was pretty torn up about
the news (who later wrote a beautiful song for Jason called “For the
Miner”.) I sat in my seat and listened intently for hours to “The
Lioness,” trying to decipher what I was hearing, but ended up a little
more lost than I was before. I suddenly thought to myself that was
alright and when I look back, it was where I needed to be.

“Coxcomb Red” stuck in my head as we stopped on St. Patrick’s Day to
eat at a diner inside the Hard Rock Casino in Biloxi, MS. I was
listless and exhausted and broke, and the tour wasn’t highly attended,
making every one a little uneasy and unsure. Though, there was this
wavering sense of comfort, and even though I was oscillating between
uncertainty and hesitation, I knew I was doing something that meant
something to me as a person, as an artist, as a soul. As I stepped
outside into the parking garage, I remember staring at the gulf waters
and putting my headphones on. I put on “Magnolia Electric Company”
(the record) and of course, that song, “Farewell Transmission” came
roaring into my ears like the heaven’s last trumpets. In a gigantic
concrete structure far from home, facing the even more enormous ocean,
I paid my own regards and thanked the man I had never met, but heard
so much about.

I decided to cover “Soul,” from “Nor Cease Thou Never Now,” one of his
earliest recordings. I hope you guys enjoy it.

“These twenty years, I’ve loved one thing only.
I love what I know about passion.
I love what I know about mercy.
I love what I know about patience.
I love what I know about soul.
and I know you.”

JCA
October 21, 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
John Calvin Abney: Website; Facebook; Twitter; Instagram; Bandcamp

Remembering Jason Molina : Luke Redfield’s Tribute

Photograph by Courtney Charanell

Photograph by Courtney Charanell

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 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.

It’s a cold, gray, and snowy day here and what better way to spend it than with a tribute to Jason. Read Luke Redfield discuss how Jason’s death affected him, and be sure to pick up a copy of Luke’s new album, The Cartographer.

Photograph by Dan Peterson

Photograph by Dan Peterson

I was having tea in Portland, with Jason’s website tabbed in my browser for better part of a week, when a news headline rocked my world.

I couldn’t believe it. Jason Molina was dead. He died while he sang to me via earbuds and a laptop. I sat motionless, gazing out a 2nd story window into a misty Oregon afternoon.

For whatever reason, his death affected me as much as anyone’s ever has. I felt his pain, his depression, his humanness, his triumphant human spirit. He was real, no gimmicks attached. There’s a true brokenness in his voice that makes him one of the most honest singers to ever step into a recording studio.

At the time of Jason’s passing, I was listening to The Magnolia Electric Co. record and immersing myself his lyrics. ​My producer and I had been summoning the Albini/Molina magic in studio, hoping to capture something that sounded half as good. It is, after all, the best sounding record of all time – clearly not the work of mere mortals – and my hair rises every time I hear it.

That great highway moon, the friends whom you doubt, that lonesome whistle whine…I’m transported back to Indiana, the lightning, the thunder, the fleeting beauty of Jason Molina’s tragic life.

I hope he knew how loved he was loved in his lifetime. He’ll continue to be regarded as a true original and musical genius.

Rest easy, brother. You’ll be gone but not forever. I love you.

— Luke Redfield






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

Remembering Jason Molina: Nathan Amundson’s Tribute

Photo by Laurent Orseau

Photo by Laurent Orseau

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 has been sort of rough so I thought I would make the time to post this lovely tribute from Nathan Amundson of Rivulets.

Photo by Christopher Dilts

Photo by Christopher Dilts

Jason was a goofy, contradictory and profound dude. We played shows together, talked shop, and smoked cigarettes outside venues waiting to go on. His albums were go-to driving music for me for many years. Particularly driving across the vast distances of the USA – something about Jason’s music seemed to evoke and understand that landscape. He lived his life as a full-time songwriter, like it was his job, and it became so. I remember a friend coming back from seeing Jason solo once, talking breathlessly about how Jason had made eye contact with each and every person in the audience. I think he was always striving to find that human thread of connection and relay it to others. He’s still connecting.






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

Remembering Jason Molina: Jason Evans Groth’s Tribute

Photo by Dylan Long

Photo by Dylan Long

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 would have been Jason’s 41st birthday, and what better way to celebrate than with a lovely tribute from his close friend and bandmate, Jason Evans Groth. Be sure to listen to Jason and Memorial Electric Co. perform “Trouble In Mind (Fade To Blue)”, which was one of JM’s favorite songs to perform live, but never recorded on an album until Farewell Transmission.

And, Jason, I’m sorry for not sharing your words sooner.

I met Jason Molina in the fall of 1998 at a store called Roadworthy Guitar and Amp in Bloomington, IN. It was on the corner of Kirkwood and Washington, right next door to Ladyman’s café, a mid-century diner that, I swear, never had any staff turnover during the entire time it was open. I had talked to Jason before this meeting – at the CD Exchange (a record store where he worked in Bloomington), at a solo Songs: Ohia show at the student radio station, WIUS; and after a set he played opening for Trans Am at Second Story in Bloomington, the night after my 21st birthday. But we had never really talked before.

As I entered the store I realized I was the only one there. Jason immediately approached me and said something along the lines of “you’re the guitar player in Cadmium Orange” (the name of my band at the time). I said yes – flattered because, to me, Jason was famous. I had played his records on my college radio show, I knew he was signed to the local label that all of us wanted to be on, and I had heard tell that he also toured a lot. I had first seen the band name Songs: Ohia in a copy of CMJ and also in Multiball, a zine that combined indie music and pinball with which I was obsessed at the time. That moment was huge for me. I can’t say I had been a huge fan of Songs: Ohia. I did like the 7”s I had heard but they were also frightening, way too mature for the kind of Kinks meets Misfits stuff I was into at the time. His voice was out of my comfort zone, his simple chord structures on oddly tuned instruments were not the Guided by Voices lo-fi I was used to.

But here he was, just another dude in my small town, talking my ear off about music. I don’t remember saying much but “wow” or “that sounds great” in our conversation. I did manage to ask him what touring was like, and he told me about getting ripped off in New York, staying in some horrible hotel somewhere, and then mentioned recording with Arab Strap. This subtle name drop of a band that the singer of my band idolized (and I idolized him) changed it even more – I was on step away from this kind of life, maybe, if people like Jason both knew my band and knew Arab Strap.

We walked from the counter to the guitar room and I saw it – a 1981 Gibson Explorer special edition with gold hardware and a walnut body. I told Jason how much I wanted the guitar and he told me all about the Spineriders, his high school metal band, and his love for Black Sabbath and Iron Maiden. How he really was a bass player, but that he felt like he could sing better with a guitar tuned up like a bass. He told me he had just finished an album of love songs, too (Axxess and Ace).

We shook hands, agreed to hang out sometime and talk about music more, agreed to come to one another’s shows, and that was that. I walked next door to Ladyman’s for lunch. I sat in the smoking section. Later that week I found out my grandfather had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. I remember thinking that the best tribute to my grandfather would be to buy that Gibson Explorer and name it after him. I actually told my grandfather that the last time I saw him (and he told me the piercing in my face was only a phase – he was right). I bought that guitar on credit (a credit card I just paid off last year) in January of 1999, right after my grandfather died. Jason sold it to me. I told him I was going to name it “Harvey” and Jason, who was a believer in things like luck and certainly tradition, just patted me on the back.

It’s 2014 and Roadworthy, Ladyman’s, and Jason are gone. Roadworthy and Ladyman’s got pushed out due to the constant hand-wringing of politicians who are convinced that there are issues with parking in small downtown areas, but who are more likely just looking for new revenue streams to pay for other bad ideas. Jason was the kind of guy who believed that anything too good could never last. He would complain endlessly about his favorite pens or pencils – for which he cared greatly – were hard to find and would often stop being made just as he settled into them. He worried that his favorite places on the road would not be there the next time we went back. He would buy an extra hamburger that he would never eat just to make sure that he didn’t get hungry if we were to find ourselves in a spot without food.

When Jason invited me to be a part of Songs: Ohia four years after our first real meeting his music had changed. I had heard Magnolia Electric Company and I was floored. It hit all the right notes for me. I was obsessed with Neil Young at the time and had begun feeling less threatened by vulnerability in songwriting. The band on the record (which wasn’t those of us called Magnolia Electric Company; we joined immediately after the record was recorded and before it was released) was such a powerhouse that perfectly complimented Jason’s songs and singing. I said out loud, to more than one person, that it was the best record anyone I had known had ever made.

On the tour for that record, I remember driving Pete Schreiner’s (Songs: Ohia drummer and Magnolia Electric Company bassist) van to my first South by Southwest, where Songs: Ohia would play two shows (one with Lucero at Tower Records and the other with a mess of Secretly Canadian bands including my other, The Impossible Shapes) and him telling me, out of nowhere, “you’ll always have a place in this band.” I responded “I’m excited that we’re getting to be better friends” to which Jason responded promptly “friends leave you, but band members never really break up.” I’m proud to say that, during his life, he never left me. Sometimes the alcohol took a version of him away from me, but I know his heart was always with me and the other guys. And we never left him, either.

We knew Jason had a drinking problem as far back as 2005, but I don’t think any of us knew what that meant. We were and are all drinkers, but we are also all in control of it – we thought Jason just didn’t know what his limits were, or DID know and refused to follow them. Eleven years after meeting Jason for real in Roadworthy he told me, on the steps of our Istanbul hotel immediately after our final show together as Magnolia Electric Company, he told me he needed to take a break to get his life together. He never said “alcoholic” (which was, frankly, one of the problems) but he seemed sincere, and since that night – and even now – I believed there would be a time when he would be ready – with our love and support – to try being a band again. It just didn’t seem possible that it would end, because we were a family that would always be together.

In his death I am reminded that, yes, we are still together, thanks to him. Jason had the uncanny ability to bring seemingly disparate people together and making them realize the incredible bond that was waiting for them all along. He was the ultimate friend networker, whether he would ever admit that or not. Listening to “Soul,” from his “Nor Cease Thou Never Now” 7”, I am shocked that such mature, dark, utterly shattered, but completely hopeful lyrics could have ever come out of a 20 year old. Jason often seemed like the oldest person I knew, while somehow being the least mature, too. Jason was my older brother who I looked up to endlessly, trying to impress him by living up to what I thought he wanted while trying to teach him new things, too. I was always so excited when he liked my jokes, when he mentioned how good a guitar solo I just played was, or when he invited me along to a show or a game of bowling. He was often a handful, too, even before the alcohol started completely running his life. He was opinionated without evidence, a dorky party killer, a very loud screamer when he felt he wasn’t getting the attention in the van he deserved. All of those things, however, were a very small price to pay for what we got with Jason.

Jason was my friend, my brother, the little guy to the right of me onstage who had the voice and personality of ten people. I miss him every day and will for the rest of my life. I am so proud to have counted him as a close friend, the kind of guy who could say “I’m sorry for the loss of your grandfather” with a longer-than-usual bit of eye contact and a simple couple of gentle pats on the back and mean it with such gravity that you never, ever, forget that look. I am lucky that his voice is captured in so many places, and even luckier that, in many of those places, my guitar is, too. The world is better for having had Jason in it.

— Jason Evans Groth






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

Best Albums of 2014

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Alas, another year without writing as much as I would have liked, but that’s my life right now. And, although I may not be writing, I’m still listening. Here are a few of my favorites from 2014. Hope to see you in the new year.

15. Shriek, Wye Oak


14. Somewhere Else, Lydia Loveless


13. Parker Millsap, Parker Millsap


12. Swimmin’ Time, Shovels & Rope


11. Water Liars, Water Liars


10. Marigolden, Field Report


9. Don’t Disconnect, Sarah Jaffe


8. Paint Another Layer On My Heart, Caleb Caudle


7. All Dies Down, Fire Mountain


6. Half the City, St. Paul & The Broken Bones

5. Lateness of Dancers, Hiss Golden Messenger


4. Electric Ursa, Joan Shelley


3. My Favourite Faded Fantasy, Damien Rice


2. Heal, Strands of Oak


1. Metamodern Sounds In Country Music, Sturgill Simpson


The albums below are probably my favorites of the year, but couldn’t find the proper place for them in my list. Y’all know I love Jason Molina, so I felt that his albums stood apart from the rest.

Didn’t It Rain (Reissue), Songs:Ohia


Journey On, Songs:Ohia

Remembering Jason Molina: Thorsten Nesch’s Tribute

Thorsten Nesch Live Koeln 2014

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, I found some time to post this tribute and cover of “Blue Chicago Moon” from Thorsten Nesch. In his tribute, Thorsten talks about the lessons he learned while doing this project. In a nutshell, Jason Molina’s music is iconic and cannot be imitated or rearranged. Molina’s songs have a life of their own — each an individual character with a heartbeat and distinct emotion that cannot be and should not be altered.

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I discovered him just 2013 when I clicked myself through a singer-songwriter night on different portals after starting on Slowcoustic. I took it from there, song after song, beer after beer. Finally I hit a music video on Yahoo, an elevator performance by Jason Molina, “Intimate 3voor12 session“. I got stuck. I played it again and again. Then I followed his tunes, fell in love with his songs only to find out he had recently passed away. A roller coaster night.

When I read about the tribute cover project I chose “Blue Chicago Moon“ – not able to foresee how far I would have to stretch my limited talent. Two lessons I learnt.

Lesson 1: I really wanted to play this song more different from the original version but it just didn’t work for me. I never had that before. So I decided it must be the nature of the tune, I just stay closer to its original feel.
Lesson 2: There is no way getting anywhere close to his singing.

However I hope I did him and “Blue Chicago Moon“ a little justice after playing it for two weeks every night – if not, I at least drank myself a little beer belly trying.

— Thorsten Nesch



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