Magnolia Electric Co.: A New Kind Of Blues

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Thursday's Pick

  • Song: "Whip-poor-will"
  • Artist: Magnolia Electric Co.
  • CD: Josephine
  • Genre: Folk-Rock
Magnolia Electric Co. 300

"Whip-poor-will" finds singer Jason Molina feeling small and looking helplessly skyward. Will Claytor hide caption

toggle caption Will Claytor

Jason Molina, the singer and songwriter behind Songs:Ohia and Magnolia Electric Co., has written hundreds if not thousands of emotionally bruised songs about the blues. As wrenching as they often are, some enterprising Web programmer could probably concoct an effective Mad Libs-style Jason Molina Lyric Generator, based on categories such as "woman's name," "expression signifying self-pity," "location signifying loneliness," and so on, to be placed in between references to the moon and menacing horizons.

Which makes it that much more remarkable that Molina's songs continue to sound so fresh and evocative. His repetition of themes and imagery never comes off as lazy; it's creating a new kind of format for the blues, like haiku or cinquain or something.

It helps that "Whip-poor-will" is as achingly pretty and strangely catchy as anything Molina has written with Magnolia Electric Co. Propelled by a slide-guitar line that's somehow both sunny and sad, "Whip-poor-will" finds Molina's sad-sack narrator feeling small and looking helplessly skyward: "So all of you folks in heaven not too busy ringin' the bell / Some of us down here ain't doin' very well." Of course, that's a bit of a poetic understatement right there: Molina and pain make an inseparable pair. Fortunately, beauty is always hanging out nearby.

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