I’ve been on a major Americana kick of late, partly inspired by reading Amanda Petrusich’s It Still Moves, an exploration of the evolution of traditional American music forms and the unique landscapes that inform them. While she doesn’t mention Magnolia Electric Co. or any of Jason Molina’s previous work as Songs: Ohia, he stands as one of the finest and most prolific exponents of folk and country music working today.
On Josephine, his first release since the epic Sojourner box set over two years ago, Molina pares down the powerful guitars that dominated much of his previous Magnolia work, mounting heartbreaking ruminations on grief, faith and the West in a exquisite frame of piano-led ballads and old country sentimentality. In part a reaction to the death of bassist Evan Farrell in 2007, Josephine is the band’s attempt to both deal with his passing and to uphold his wishes for the album. The loss of the titular Josephine courses through the lyrics, reflecting the universal and inevitable pain of losing someone dear and the inner strength that carries us through. Molina’s wavering, bruised vocals and the music that holds them up make for one of the most beautifully sad albums in some time.
Magnolia Electric Co. will appear at this weekend’s End of the Road Festival in Dorset.