Magnolia Electric Co.


Magnolia Electric Co. - Josephine

Jason Molina hardly needs an excuse to sound forlorn; he’s done that, first with Songs: Ohia and then with Magnolia Electric Co., since the mid-’90s. Nevertheless, the alt-country crooner received a tragic jolt when bandmate Evan Farrell perished in a house fire in December 2007, around the time the two men were assembling ideas for their next studio session.

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Magnolia Electric Co.
Three stars
Beyond the Weekly
Magnolia Electric Co.

Not surprisingly, the resulting Josephine is Magnolia Electric Co.’s darkest hour yet—a collection of sparse, down-tempo material that pays tribute to the group’s fallen comrade, in spirit if not in exact substance. Most of the lyrics actually relate to the titular character, a departed love, for whom Molina’s words painfully ache. Still, given the backdrop, lines like “Why, Lord, always the dawn?/Is it so, goodbye?/And ‘I love you’ will echo on” apply all too woefully to Farrell as well.

That track, “Heartbreak at Ten Paces,” is just one dusty gem among the 14 tracks. “Shenandoah,” “Whip-Poor-Will” and “Shiloh” are definitive Americana statements, and a few other tunes aren’t far behind. But Josephine suffers from its sameness; “Map of the Falling Sky” thunders a bit, and the title cut and “The Handing Down” hint like they might, but the disc could use some of Molina’s trademark Crazy Horse ruckus to change its pace. Then again, considering what he’s suffered through, it’s tough to knock Molina for not rocking out right now.

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Spencer Patterson

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