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 release of the upcoming 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.
This week, singer-songwriter Pickering Pick shares his thoughts on Jason. Pick who embodies his music and writes from the heart as much as Jason has offered up a world class version of “Didn’t It Rain”. A reverent, piano-driven interpretation, Pick brilliantly transforms and uplifts the song without losing the quality of Molina’s original.
I was first introduced to Jason’s music by Arp Cleveland of Archie Bronson Outfit, who dropped the Songs:Ohia moniker one evening in a pub in Bloomsbury while we were talking about American folk singers. That was 2001 I think, before I moved to California. I didn’t actually hear his music until late 2002, when I found a copy of Didn’t It Rain at a small (and long-since defunct) record store in Sacramento.
The production on that album is extraordinary: the space and dynamics, the hollow feeling which surrounds each player, and the open-ended, meandering songs. The first bars of Didn’t It Rain reach out from a chilly, claustrophobic loneliness; a stormy and hellish place which constantly shifts shape. There is no way to describe the experience of hearing Jason Molina’s voice for the first time. His uncommon pitch and phrasing, the subtle rhythms which ride along above big, deliberate guitar chords. The disjointed, midwestern imagery. Many artists are good at conjuring half-remembered devils; Jason played like a man who was standing right in front of The Beast.
Didn’t It Rain is the eighth Songs:Ohia album, and it is my favourite of Jason’s recordings. After hearing it, I went back and bought everything that came before it – and it is an astonishing collection – but I don’t think he was ever as compelling as he is on this album, and on the title song in particular.
Last year, when I first heard he had passed, I wrote about how utterly sad and angry I felt at his loss. I feel exactly the same way now. In his music I found inspiration and courage, but I am also a little bit afraid of how deep he went. Heroism comes in many unusual forms, and for me, Jason Molina was heroic. When he died, we lost an artist of rare power, and one whom I will miss terribly. I am so sad he’s gone.
Pre-Order Farewell Transmission: The Music of Jason Molina: Amazon; iTunes
Jason Molina: Website; Secretly Canadian; Graveface Records
Magnolia Electric Co.: Website; Secretly Canadian; Facebook
Pickering Pick: Bandcamp; Facebook; Twitter; Yer Bird