Magnolia Electric Co. 'Josephine'

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About halfway through Magnolia Electric Co.'s 2009 long player, Josephine, there is a noticeable shift in weight. It's a release of some sort - the kind that comes when you give up holding back the tears. It's a heavy kind of freedom coming to the forefront, an empowering sadness. And when chief Electrician Jason Molina delivers the line "an hour glass...filled with tears and twilight from a friend's dying day," the mood becomes clear. The band is back on its heels, yes, but they are going to fight back in the only way they know how.

Molina's concept album is an honest-to-God effort on the part of Magnolia Electric Co. to pay tribute to the life and spirit of fallen bassist Evan Farrell (December 2007), as the ideas for Josephine were being pieced together. Molina said each tune is a good faith attempt to make real Evan's hopes for the record. And in doing so, Evan's spirit becomes part of the concept. The loss of Josephine becomes the loss of Evan. Molina's familiar lyrical allegories are still in tact. But here, in what is no doubt the strongest set of songs Molina has written since the inception of Magnolia Electric Co., those classic themes take on new meanings. Molina has approached the universal loneliness before, but never in such a focused, directed manner as found on Josephine.

Molina, Magnolia Electric Co. and legendary recording engineer Steve Albini then put it all to heart. The album is also an experiment in Molina's songcraft, introducing some real lessons in brevity as he whittles a handful of tracks into well-under three minutes. There are cues taken from great songwriters like Willie Nelson and Warren Zevon, ie the horn section throughout the record and the especially the sax solo on the Zevon-esque lead track "O! Grace," or the doo-wop leanings found in "Rock of Ages." The album closer, "An Arrow in the Gale," acknowledges that Magnolia Electric road warriors, are still blazing the trail with the line "Lightning on our tail, we better go, Jo."

1. O! Grace
2. The Rock Of Ages
3. Josephine
4. Shenandoah
5. Whip-poor-will
6. Song For Willie
7. Hope Dies Last
8. The Handing Down
9. Map Of The Falling Sky
10. Little Sad Eyes
11. Heartbreak At Ten Paces
12. Knoxville Girl
13. Shiloh
14. An Arrow In The Gale