Going For A Song: ‘Song For Willie’

Magnolia Electric Co. – Song For Willie

I recently finished reading Erin Osmon’s book Jason Molina: Riding With the Ghost. There’s a lot to recommend it: details such as Jason’s teenage bands having reassuringly teenage band names (Chronic Insanity anyone?), my hope fulfilled the book would look at the Midwest music scene (subject for Osmon’s next book maybe please?), and the excellent analysis of Jason’s music throughout.

Osmon dispelled my assertion that the song ‘Darlin…’ off Hecla & Griper was an original Molina composition influenced by the song ‘Funny How Time Slips Away’; rather it’s a cover of the Conway Twitty song ‘Hello Darlin’’. And it was because of Osmon’s thorough research into the songs and their providence I realised I’d never considered Jason’s songs drawn from his life as such, and understood that this element was part of what made his songwriting so special for me.

I also reassessed Magnolia Electric Co.’s last album Josephine which had been, in recent years, supplanted in my esteem by the album What Comes After The Blues. But after Osmon’s section on Josephine I ended up agreeing with her that this was the ‘album that finally captured and synthesized both sides’ (p. 167) of Jason Molina and Magnolia Electric Co. ‘Song For Willie’ is from that album.

Towards the end of her book Osmon writes ‘the real tragedy of Jason Molina lives not in his songs but in his short life’ (p. 207). And the last chapters detailing the extent of Jason’s alcoholism are a sad, difficult read, but by concentrating on the songs and his life Osmon, in the telling of both, never allows the tragedy of the latter to overshadow the impressiveness and achievements of the former.

 

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