Gig Review: Jason Molina, Green Room Theatre, Manchester, 4th February 2007

In between the Decemberists/Clap Your Hands gigs last Friday and the Decemberists on Monday, we slipped out on the Sunday night to catch Jason Molina of Songs:Ohia and Magnolia Electric Co. fame in the intimate confines of the Green Room Theatre on Whitworth Street.

We arrived in time to see From A Family Of Candlemakers, two unassuming young men – one on mandolin and occasional keyboards, the other on acoustic guitar and vocals – playing quiet and slow. They started off brightly, recalling The Library Trust and Sparklehorse in their quieter moments, but soon things began to drag, melodies meandered and lyrics became increasingly trite. Just as yawns were being stifled they hit back with two final killer songs. The first was a maudlin ode to a life at a standstill and had a great melody and superb, witty lyrics about Daniel Johnston posters falling off the bedroom wall and the singer’s barren sex life. The last song, “Dressed In A Vest”, was the only thing they played that had any energy to it and showed that, thankfully, they are not one trick ponies.

Olav Larsen and The Alabama Rodeo Stars were next and were just what the doctor ordered. There are times when all I need is a good ole country fix and the affable Olav and his excellent band more than fulfilled my needs with their superb authentic West Coast sound and tunes that were so good that you’d be forgiven for thinking they were covers of long lost country classics. Gram Parsons is an obvious influence and they also recalled Hank Williams, early Dylan and Neil Young and took me back to the late eighties when the likes of Green On Red and The Long Ryders piqued my interest in this much maligned and misunderstood genre. Not bad for a bunch of Norwegians.

I’ll confess that while I enjoy Jason Molina‘s work as Songs:Ohia and Magnolia Electric Co., I have trouble with his solo stuff. When it’s just Jason and his acoustic guitar the songs tend to run into one another and I find it difficult to latch on to specific melodies and themes that set the songs apart from each other. I’ll admit that this is because I haven’t invested the necessary time and effort in listening to his albums but then the cursory listens I have given them have hardly made me want to make that effort.

Live in this intimate little theatre, however, his songs come alive as we have no choice but to listen intently to the diminutive singer and his lonesome blues. There was plenty of Magnolia material in the set, from the opening salvo of “Hammer Down” and “Leave The City” through to the closing “The Dark Don’t Hide It” but I have to admit I didn’t recognise much of what he played, just bits and pieces of songs as if half-remembered from a dream. As with his solo recordings there seemed little to be little variation between the songs but Molina’s fantastic, soulful country croon filled the room with the spectral imagery of the songs with their recurring motifs of ghosts, birds, animals, the dark, railroads, highways and the blues and made for an entrancing evening. Even JustHipper, who I was convinced would hate it as she’d never heard any of his stuff before, found it to be an engaging experience. I feel an in-depth re-examination of the Molina back catalogue coming on.

Magnolia Electric Co. – The Dark Don’t Hide It

Jason Molina – Get Out, Get Out, Get Out

One Response to “Gig Review: Jason Molina, Green Room Theatre, Manchester, 4th February 2007”

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