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.


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.”

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

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