Magnolia Electric Co. - What Comes After The Blues LP
I don't know how old Jason Molina is, but his music of late would indicate that he's close to settling in. With Songs: Ohia, Molina's distinctively melancholic tenor (in both voice and guitar) was consistently the largest piece of the pie, but the transformation of the musical style from record to record was always cause for buying the next one. In 2003, Magnolia Electric Co. seemed like the next logical step in the Molina progression. As he bid farewell to the Songs: Ohia exercises with Pyramid Electric Company the same year, though, the Magnolias are probably somewhere closer to fruition than Molina has ever come.
What Comes After the Blues is clear proof of that semblance, as Molina has stuck with most of his band and most of the country-laced furor that encapsulated all of us on the last record. Sure it's less surprising this time, but that doesn't mean it's not still glorious. The biggest growth with this record is Molina's willingness to fill in the spaces. Once upon an Axcess and Ace, this was a musician who would let his timid voice and simple themes sink in until they were a full part of the consciousness. Now, and more so than on the MEC premier, strings, slide guitar, peddle steel, banjo, violin, trumpet, and piano are filling in every cranny to create less of a full-on effect, but an equally satisfying rash of strong songs.
The record's best are, perhaps not surprisingly, the fullest. On "Leave the City," Molina laments the urbane landscape which he is passing through. The incrementally added trumpet, slide guitar, piano, and female harmonies seem to justify that he's "thankful for the blues." In true Molina fashion, he doesn't shy away from the slower end of the ballad spectrum either. Jennie Benford colors "Hard To Love a Man," "The Night Shift Lullaby," and "Northstar Blues" with stable exclamations behind Molina's wavering croon. They're reaching deep, I'm telling you!
Given that Magnolia Electric Co. will be with us for quite some time, this album is a solidifier. Molina wasn't just trying on the country-rock on for size. By cutting out the Neil Young homages and unabashedly authentic front-porch territorials like "The Old Black Hen," Molina has replaced imitation with sincere connection to the sound. By any measure, that seems the mark of a musician who has consulted his conscience and found a sound that has grown into a lifeline, refreshingly knowing it is his own.
-Tiny Mix Tapes