We're All Supposed To Try:
Jason Molina and the Magnolia Electric Co.
by Tom Johnson
"All the great set-up hearts, all at once start to beat..."
I was a few hours in to a rather dispiriting twelve-hour overnight coach journey when I learned of Jason Molina’s untimely passing on March 16th, 2013. There was nobody else awake, nobody else to speak to about it, just the knowledge of his passing and the onward journey. As the coach rolled on regardless, and I listened to his songs, I felt even more alone and detached from the situation around me. Thrown in to the dark of the night, his words brought a sharp clarity to the murkiness outside the window; as is so often the case when listening to his unequivocally sobering music. Familiar then, but different too, from this point forward.
Upon reflection, and despite my self-centred stance, that night was an apt place for it all to play out. His music, for me at least, has always felt like the road at night; a long and often aimless stretch, shaped and led by the darkness surrounding it. An untamed beast holding the dead moon firmly in its jaws. The album I instantly turned to at the time was his stark and beautifully harrowing Didn’t It Rain LP. You wont often find those two words together – ‘harrowing’ and ‘beautiful’ – but for Jason Molina they’re a perfect summation of what he did better than most. The words and songs he paired together have always trodden a perilous path between those two opposites, flipping from one to the other like the most unstable of landscapes, never settling for just one or the other but focusing instead on the subtle symmetry they project and the sadness and desolation they can both deliver in an instant.