Remembering Jason Molina: Jeffrey Fields’s Tribute

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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 Jeffrey Fields, the frontman for Philly’s Morning River Band. Although Jeffrey never met Jason, he has been greatly influenced by his music and songwriting as evident in his short but reverent tribute below. Morning River Band has also contributed a raucous and celebratory version of “Whip-poor-will”, which I have included at the end of the post. Oh, yeah, and be sure to check out Morning River Band’s new EP, Abyssal Channeling, due out on May 29th. I think you’ll like it.

Photo by Amrit Singh

Photo by Amrit Singh

Few who frequent Jason Molina’s world of ringing bells, blue lights, and black crows return unchanged… some don’t return at all. Those who do emerge with the realization that Jason’s songs are mirrors. Those little, sad eyes staring back from inside the music are your own. Though the creator of that universe has passed on, his work remains. The choir continues to wail through the fog; and, so long as man has ears to hear, the double tongues will sing. Farewell, Jason. Though I hardly knew you, you weren’t hard to love.

— Jeffrey Fields






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

Remembering Jason Molina: William Matheny’s Tribute

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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.

As I sit at work waiting for my emails to archive, I thought now would be a good time to post a tribute … So, here we go.

William Matheny is a singer-songwriter and musician from West Virginia, and has been a member of a few local and not-so local bands — one being a little band called Southeast Engine on Misra Records. He has also been known to do his own thing, but either way you cut it, William is a talented guy doing his state proud. So, it is no wonder that he has agreed to pay tribute to a fellow songwriter and honorary Mountaineer with a few words and a terrific cover of “Just Be Simple”.

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Although I’d been peripherally aware of it since 2003 or so, I didn’t become fully immersed in the music of Jason Molina until the autumn of 2008. I had just beaten out some not particularly stiff competition to join a band from Athens, OH called Southeast Engine. The only other applicant for the position wasn’t available to play shows on Saturday nights. I could play on Saturdays and I had also just bought a van, so that may have had something do with my getting the job.

Southeast Engine had the good fortune of sharing a booking agent with Magnolia Electric Company (a steadfast captain of the stormy sea of independent rock booking named Erik Carter), but more relevant to the story at hand, my new bandmates were huge MEC/Songs: Ohia fans. It didn’t take much time in the van before I had become enamored with the songs, with Molina’s inimitable phrasing and, more than anything, with the mystery of this music.

As of this writing, the aforementioned van now has 148,646 miles on its odometer and the music of Jason Molina has been a faithful companion nearly the whole way. I have vivid memories of blasting “Farewell Transmission” while driving through the mountains of western Colorado under a bright full moon. I remember listening to “Hammer Down” on vast emptiness of I-90W somewhere in North Dakota. I remember starting every morning for months with “O! Grace.”

As an interpreter, Molina always seemed to know exactly which cards not to show, and with his deep body of work created music that is somehow both haunting and comforting in equal measure. There’s something inherently unknowable about it that hundreds of listens later I still can’t entirely put my finger on.

I’m joined on this track by Bud Carroll (drums, pedal steel), Ian Thornton (bass) and Bradley Jenkins (vocals). I chose “Just Be Simple” because it so wonderfully articulates the struggle for a satisfied mind. It might be simple, but it isn’t easy. Thanks for everything, Jason.

— William Matheny

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

Remembering Jason Molina: Lil’ BUB’s Tribute

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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 no secret that I love cats. I have more than any normal person should. You see, I have 6 of them — 3 at my house and 3 at my boyfriend’s. I did have seven, but my oldest, Miss Kitty, passed away in February at the age of fourteen. I still miss her very much. So, it isn’t any surprise when I say that the photo of Jason cradling a cat in his arms is my favorite picture. Each time I see it, it brings a smile to my face. It has also led me to ask if Jason was a cat-person. And, here is what I found out …

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Bhaji

Jason was actually a dog person but liked all animals. However, that all changed in 2000 when Jason and his wife Darcie rescued a cat — Bhaji — from a no-kill shelter. They developed a close friendship, and, during their time together, Jason would write silly songs and draw many pictures of Bhaji. Sadly, Bhaji passed away in 2014, a year after Jason. But, Bhaji wasn’t the only cat that Jason loved. He loved all of Steve Albini’s cats, and he would have loved Lil’ BUB had they met. Their love of magic would have been an instant bond.

BUB has listed Magnolia Electric Co.’s Josephine as one of her favorite albums and her Dude was a close friend, so I asked if she would like to say a few words about him. This is what she wrote …

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While I never met Jason in person, I had a close spiritual and magical connection with him through the friends we’ve shared. My dude and his closest friends played with him in his band and recorded his music, so we were bonded by the magic that comes from music, love, and friendship. We are also both very small, so we had that in common too. While he may not be with us in physical form, we all know that his music lives on. But more importantly, his spirit lives on through his music, and through his friends. As a magic space cat, I am able to see and hear him all around, and I know that he is feeling better and stronger than ever. I look forward to meeting him face to face, in the future, in deep space.

— Lil’ BUB

Also, please consider donating what you can afford to Lil’ BUB’s Big Fund For The ASPCA.






Purchase Farewell Transmission: The Music of Jason Molina: Amazon; iTunes
Jason Molina: Website; Secretly Canadian; Graveface Records
Magnolia Electric Co.: Website; Secretly Canadian; Facebook
Lil’ BUB: Website; Facebook; Twitter; YouTube; Instagram; Tumblr

Remembering Jason Molina – Samantha Crain’s Tribute

Photo by Keisha Register

Photo by Keisha Register

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, singer-songwriter Samantha Crain shares a powerful tribute to Jason attesting to the strength of his influence on her music. In this brief paragraph, she vividly recalls listening to The Lioness for the first time as well as her internal and external dialogues with him during her creative process which can be heard in “For the Miner”. Samantha also provided a stark, lo-fi cover of “It’s Easier Now” from Jason’s second solo album under his name, Let It Go, Let It Go, Let It Go. It evokes Jason with its bleak beauty.

Photo by Thomas Heath

Photo by Thomas Heath

I found The Lioness in a bargain bin at Size Records in Oklahoma City when I was 17. The cover looked weird. Purple sky, palm trees. No lion. I had to get back to Shawnee and I had to pee so I grabbed it and paid the man 5 bucks. Back then, in high school, before being a touring musician that writes records had even entered my brain, I was a music loving kid with a cool car (cherry red 1967 Ford Mustang), not many friends, and a penchant for driving around–just driving around Pottawatomie and Lincoln county with no destination, burning gas and time. I got going on Interstate 40 and once I was clear of Midwest City, past the air force base, I popped the CD in my cheap blue neon glowing after market CD player in car. It was dawn, my speakers were loud, and then, I hear it. The heavy sparse chords of “The Black Crow” rang through me, filling all the dark air in the cab of the car. Then his voice, this Jason Molina guy, yelps out, sounding like he is lying on the concrete outside a gas station at night, bleeding out of a wound. For 7 minutes, this song terrified and comforted me and, ever since then, I’ve been buying Jason Molina albums, Songs: Ohia albums, and Magnolia Electric Co. records. And when I started writing songs, I began speaking to Jason through an imaginary comradery, replying to him in my own music. He has been the single most influential musician to me and I am overwhelmed with sadness at his passing. I had felt something additional in the past year while listening to his records, something different and eerie. It felt like I was hearing the music of a ghost and so, last year, I wrote “For the Miner” pleading with him “don’t go now”. Perhaps I expected too much of him. I even feel guilty in a strange way. I loved his music, his pleading voice, his jangly guitar, his winced face, and most of all his candor. I am, in a huge way, a musician because I wanted to connect with him in his own language. I will miss you Jason Molina.

— Samantha Crain



“For The Miner” (Download for free on her website)



“It’s Easier Now”



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

Andrew Bryant – This Is The Life

AndrewBryantThisIsTheLife2

Andrew Bryant’s album, This Is The Life, gives the listener — us — a little glimpse into his life and thoughts. Known for his low harmonies in Water Liars, Bryant showcases the depth of his voice and songwriting talents TITL. Throughout the album, he eloquently expresses the struggles of his life (or life in general) without the bullshit.

Bryant starts the album encouraging himself to do what he loves in the gentle anthem “Do What You Love.” He continues the theme in the next track “Losing My Shit.” With gritty garage guitar, Bryant loses his shit doing what he loves. By releasing all of his love and emotion in a song and working hard at it, it becomes a beautiful thing. And, I whole-heartedly agree. “Keep It Together” is moody and brooding with the driving guitar that matches the determination Bryant sings about in the song.

Bryant is at his vocal best in “The Free.” His voice is rich, thoughtful, and soulful with a sadness that is enhanced by the haunting cries of the steel guitar. The reflections coupled with the retro sound in “It Takes Time” is some of Bryant’s strongest songwriting, while the yearning poetics in “I Want You Final” is intense and strangely sexy. And, the repetive nature of “Fool Heart” is mesmerizing staying with you long after listening to it. I’ve had days where the song has been on repeat in my head. My favorite song on the album, “My Own Saving Grace,” is a heartbreaking hymn of self-preservation and love told through dark imagery, while “Do Your Work” closes out the album. Purposesfully placed at the end, “Do Your Work” reminds himself, as well as us, why he does what he loves — making meaningful music. And, on This Is The Life, Bryant has most definitely found his voice among the whispers on a long dark road.





Purchase This Is The Life
Andrew Bryant: Website; Facebook; Twitter

Remembering Jason Molina: Andrew Bryant’s Tribute

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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 is the second anniversary of Jason’s death, and I couldn’t think of a more beautiful tribute than the one provided by Andrew Bryant. For those not familiar with Andrew, you may know him as the second half of the popular duo Water Liars, whose cover of “Just Be Simple” has become a staple at their live shows as well as a standout track on Farewell Transmission. Andrew also has an excellent new album out called This Is The Life. You should check it out … but, for now, let’s remember the music of Jason Molina.

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I was living in a house trailer in my home state of Mississippi in the summer of 2003, the year Songs: Ohia – The Magnolia Electric Company was released. I remember the air conditioning unit was freezing up on me and it was about 100 degrees during the day. I worked all day at a roof­truss manufacturing factory and every night I drank beer and smoked cigarettes until I fell asleep, usually laying in the floor with my head on the air duct, trying not to die. I was in a bad place that year. I had dropped out of school. I had a shit job. My girlfriend was gone. The air conditioning was on the fritz. It was hard times.

One of those summer nights, I was sitting at my computer and read something about this song called ​Hold On Magnolia. The title grabbed me. My home state of Mississippi’s official nickname is ‘The Magnolia State’. Maybe that’s what did it. Maybe not. I couldn’t really say. But I do remember hearing about that song before ever hearing the name Songs: Ohia or Jason Molina. This was the era of Myspace and Napster so I went hunting. I read about the record. I read about Songs: Ohia. I read about Jason. I found a pirate download of his new album and set it to download and went back to drinking beer and fell asleep. I know it took all night to download because it always did back then. This was before the days of hi­speed wifi. I had a dial up connection and an old ass computer­­only slightly faster than the postal service for acquiring new music. But that was my portal to a broader world in those days. And it was through that portal I found something to live for.

Music, for me, is something to live for in itself. I believe it to be the highest form of art. Put together in the right way, music helps me to transcend this often meaningless existence that the earth has thrust me into. For seven minutes and fifty­one seconds, ​Hold On Magnolia continues to baptize me with meaning and emotion every time I listen to it. Fully renewed I can face the next hour, the next night, the next day. The first time I heard that song I wept. Something in me was released. Something was begun and began again and it keeps repeating. And for that reason I can’t imagine existing all this time on this planet without the songs of Jason Molina. His songs put a bandaid on my cut­up soul. And for that I will never forsake his work.

To create an immortal existence is what I believe most humans long for. This is what religion has been trying to do for centuries, but religion has failed us and left many like me in a state of existential crisis. We have asked ourselves Why am I here? What am I? Is this all there is? And I believe this is what drives us who create art: to endlessly seek transcendence above this often meaningless journey called life, to create something that will never die. And it is for these reasons that Jason Molina will never die. Nor will I.

During that same summer, in the year 2003, I began my own process of transcendence. In that house trailer in Mississippi I began to write my own songs and record them on my computer. Shortly after I began to play shows under my own name, whenever and wherever I could. And I’ve continued to do it for the last twelve years, and I have made a life that I now find both meaningful and enjoyable, one that I wouldn’t trade for anything.

On Sunday August 15, 2004, Hurricane Charley was headed up the East Coast from Florida causing 10 fatalities and over 14 billion dollars in damage on its path. The Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez successfully defeated a recall vote with 58% support. Sixteen hundred Palestinians in Israeli jails began a hunger strike to protest against their prison conditions. A bomb blast killed 18 people at a parade in Dhemaji, Assam during India’s Independence Day celebrations. The Chicago White Sox defeated the Red Sox in Boston 5­4. And I drove two hours north to Memphis, TN to open for Magnolia Electric Co. at the Hi­tone on Poplar Avenue. But only one of these events has made a lasting impact on my life.

There is no grand story tell of that night really, so I won’t try. I drove up in my dark blue 1998 Mazda Protege. Did a line check. Ordered a beer and talked to Jason Groth about music and touring. I looked over my shoulder, wondering where Jason Molina was, hoping to meet him, but he was only a ghost that night. I played my set to a handful of twenty people or so, packed up my shit, then settled at the bar to watch MEC play. I would have to be at work at 7am so I was probably anxious about driving home, trying not to drink too much.

Before they took the stage, I turned and saw that Jason was standing next to me at the bar, holding a Red Stripe. He was wearing a red flannel shirt and I remember thinking he was shorter than I had imagined. I nodded at him and he returned the nod. We said nothing, and then he took the stage with the rest of his band.

I was mesmerized by their performance. The songs that I had spent the last year immersing myself in were coming to life before my eyes. And there were new songs too. I was taken out of this world and I was born into a new one. And it was a world I wanted to be in.

In the 12 years since that night, Jason Molina has grown in my mind from a small, awkward mid­westerner into a giant, confident genius. I have consistently played his records more than any other artist or band I’ve come to love since. They keep me company at home. They keep me sane when I’m on the road. His songs have become a collection of torches on my journey across the long dark blues of life. Phrases like “Hammer down, heaven bound” and “Just be simple” have become personal mantras for me. I have harmonized the lines “I ain’t lookin for that easy way out/ This whole life has been about/ trying trying trying/ To be simple again” with my one of my best friends, Justin Kinkel­Schuster, on hundreds of stages, and I have felt something deep lifting me up every time. Sure, the heartbreak of Jason’s death has suffered my soul as much as the next, but I am resurrected every time I put on his music. I am pulled back from the long dark blues everytime I hear his angelic voice vibrating in my ear like a ghost. Hammer down, my brothers. Hammer down, my sisters. Hammer down.

— Andrew Bryant, February 26, 2015






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

Remembering Jason Molina: Ben Lubeck’s Tribute

benlubeck

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.

Ben Lubeck of Farewell Milwaukee provided a great cover of Jason’s “Leave The City” for Farewell Transmission, and has contributed a few words for this Molina remembrance project.

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The first time I heard Jason Molina I was with my friend Brian Kurbis. He put on Magnolia Electric Co. on a beautiful summer day and I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. It was one of those lovely surprises in which you’re thrilled that you were let in on this new band, but at the same time disappointed that you had missed out on their music for so long. Once I got my hands on that record I couldn’t put it down. It was in my car CD player nearly the entire summer.

I remember the excitement of driving to visit my girlfriend in Omaha, a six hour drive from Minneapolis, and finally pulling into her driveway. She had gone home for the summer and I hadn’t seen her in months so naturally the anticipation was killing me. But when I pulled into her parents’ driveway, “Hold On Magnolia” came on and I sat and listened to the entire 7 minute song. It hypnotized me and ripped my heart out. Took me to a different place. Absolutely gorgeous. Jason’s music does that for me. It floors me. Makes me stop what I’m doing and really listen. Not many things can do that. I’m honored to be part of this album. The fact that I was able to interpret his song “Leave The City” is a true privilege.

— Ben Lubeck






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