Magnolia Electric Company
w/ The Watson Twins, Drakkar Sauna
Mon. Sept. 24
Village Tavern, Mt. Pleasant
1055 Johnnie Dodds Blvd.
“Lonesome Valley” from the album Sojourner
In the span of 11 years, Jason Molina has released nine full-length Songs: Ohia albums and three full discs since the band evolved into Magnolia Electric Co. in 2000, plus two solo CDs and roughly 20 EPs and singles in between album releases.
Molina says he’s used to finishing entire albums in three days. Maybe his fans should have seen a project like his new release, Sojourner, coming all along. It’s a three-CD/one-EP box set of entirely new material, plus a DVD that documents a Magnolia Electric Co. tour through Canada. It’s still an impressive achievement, even by Molina’s prolific standards.
“I really set myself up an interesting trap by putting out a project like this,” he says.
The Sojourner project started out with the Nashville Moon session at the Chicago facility of the acclaimed studio engineer Steve Albini. And while Molina initially thought the session might yield the next Magnolia Electric Co. album, he soon realized it would be part of something far bigger as he continued to turn out songs that seemed to belong together.
Albini essentially served as a recording engineer, simply documenting the performances by Magnolia Electric Co. in his studio. On one of the CDs, Black Ram, David Lowery was involved on a deeper level in the recordings.
“I would call him more of a producer because he took my idea to come to a studio to work with musicians I had never played with before, that I’d never met before, and basically write in the studio a record,” Molina says. “So David was instrumental in getting me musicians who were very open to working on the fly, musicians who were open to changing things even if they felt like what they played was really successful, just try it again from a totally different angle.”
Black Ram offers some of the most intriguing music on Sojourner, as the disc moves from the atmospheric touches of “Will-O-The Wisp” and the stark and bold rock of “What’s Broken Becomes Better” to “In The Human World” and the desolate piano song “The Old Horizon.”
The Shohola CD found Molina recording with just a microphone and guitar. For the most part, the sparse setting works just fine, as songs like “The Spell,” “Steady Now,” and “Night Country” boast vocal melodies that stand strong in the austere and intimate solo setting.
“I think lyrically that session was very strong,” Molina says. “I think it’s a lot of personally challenging material.”
The Sun Sessions EP has only four songs, but it represents a special moment for Magnolia Electric Co. On a tour stop in Memphis, they arranged to play a gig in exchange for several hours of studio time at the legendary Sun Studio. Because it operates as a museum during the day, it meant a midnight studio booking for the band.
“We came up with an EP worth of tunes that I think are very strong, and I think that we got more than what we would have ever anticipated,” says Molina. “I think we all left there feeling like we had really done something special.”
Sojourner just recently hit stores, and Molina says the current Magnolia Electric Co. live performance leans heavily on songs from the CDs but he says there are fresh twists.
“The way some of the songs are presented on the box set we’ve tinkered with and changed around, changed the arrangements and instrumentation,” Molina says. “That makes it really exciting from a musical perspective.”