Songs: Ohia – A Farewell Transmission

Songs: Ohia – Magnolia Electric Co. (10th Anniversary Deluxe Edition)

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Deluxe Editions, Legacy Versions, Remastered Originals complete with outtakes and collectors items. They promise so much but they rarely deliver. A few live tracks here. A few discarded songs there. There’s the odd exception. Jeff Buckley’s ‘Forget Her’ from the Grace reissue being one. The Dylan Bootleg Series in pretty much its entirety being another. But hidden gems are few and far between. Songs: Ohia’s Magnolia Electric Co. is a magnificent album that deserves special treatment. The good news is that the Deluxe version is very special. It serves not only as a timely tribute to the late Jason Molina, but it enhances the original in a way that very few equivalent releases have managed. The new edition begins with two bonus tracks. The first, ‘The Big Game Is Every Night’, is a full-band outing that would have graced the original version of the album. Beginning with the words “It’ll get so quiet when this record ends”, it’s a closing track if ever there was one and, presumably, in the battle with ‘Hold On Magnolia’ it came second. But it’s a genuine lost classic. The second, ‘Whip-Poor-Will’, finally ended up on Josephine some six years later, but here the vocals are shared and they give the song a nice counterpoint. The big interest, though, lies in the second half of the reissue. They’re Jason Molina’s original demos of all the tracks on the original album plus the two bonus tracks. Many of them have found their way onto music blogs over the years, but now they’re brought together and properly curated. The first thing you notice is the click of the recording button. They’re that intimate. Featuring just Molina and a guitar, they’re demos in the the sense that the band is absent. But in another mood, another incarnation, and with only minimal overdubs, Molina could have put them out instead of the original album and we would still be singing their praises. There are minor differences here and there. A slight change of lyrics on ‘John Henry Split My Heart’. But for the most part they’re ready for the band to fill out. Perhaps the most interesting inclusions are ‘The Old Black Hen’ and ‘Peoria Lunch Box Blues’ which, unlike the album proper, Molina sings himself. When you hear him in his familiar fragile voice deliver the lines, “Tell them that every day I lived, I was trying to sing the blues the way I find them”, you realise why this is no ordinary reissue. Jason Molina is gone to the “ageless darkness”. But this Deluxe edition brings him at least part way back. “I will be gone, But not forever”.

NPR review

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