All-time underrated American folk-rock heroes Songs: Ohia are getting a reissue from the vault as the band’s label, Secretly Canadian, have announced the release of a previously unheard live album.
The LP, Live: Vanquishers, comes from a late October show that Jason Molina and his band of roots rockers played in the Netherlands during a 2000 European tour. The album will be released exclusively to members of the Secretly Society subscription series and Static & Distance, the official fan club dedicated to Molina, who died in 2013.
“Jason created such an expansive universe across his recordings, writing, & artwork and his fans have wrapped an incredible community around his work,” label boss Ben Swanson said in a statement. “We created Static & Distance to give an opportunity for the long-time fan to dive deeper into his world as well as offer a new entry point of discovery for those that are coming in fresh. It’s been a lot of fun going through Jason’s archive, reconnecting & collaborating with old friends, not to mention exploring new ways of telling Jason’s story. We absolutely love Jason’s fans, they are so passionate about his music and have been incredible about keeping his legacy alive. We have a ton of ideas and couldn’t be more excited to go on this journey with them.”
This era of Songs: Ohia is one of the most fascinating. Molina began to expand his sonic scope from lo-fi at-home solo recordings to full band arrangements and professional studio work towards the end of the ’90s. This necessitated a full band for touring, which in 2000 consisted of brothers Rob and Dan Sullivan on bass and guitar, Jeff Panall on drums, and Jim Grabowski on organ. 2000 also saw the release of The Lioness, technically the band’s fourth album, but their first as something resembling a real band.
Trying to describe Songs: Ohia, and all of Molina’s work, has been a difficult task for fans. There are elements of alt-country, folk, rock, and even metal elements in the music, but it pulls specifically from a very Midwestern United States amalgamation of roots music with a DIY punk ethos. At the centre of it all is Molina, one of the most thoughtful and insightful songwriters of his generation, with a haunting and affecting voice that can be both powerful and fragile.
Here’s the rest of the story: in 2003, Molina and his current band released the album The Magnolia Electric Co., which brought the group an increased level of notoriety. On that album’s tour, just as people were starting to recognise the name Songs: Ohia, Molina decided to change the band’s name to The Magnolia Electric Co., retroactively making that album either the final Songs: Ohia album or the eponymous debut of The Magnolia Electric Co. It’s somewhat confusing, but everything in Molina’s musical world was relatively fluid. Band members came and went, and Molina continued to follow his muse in any direction it went.
Soon a relatively stable lineup of The Magnolia Electric Co. formed, and the band recorded a number of albums including 2005’s What Comes After the Blues and 2009’s Josephine, which happen to be two of this writer’s favourite albums. All the while, Molina would occasionally record under other monikers while dealing with severe alcoholism. After 2009, Molina largely disappeared from public life, eventually succumbing to alcohol-related organ failure in 2013. He left behind a whole lot of finished material, plus a vault of half-assembled albums, live shows, and sketches that would remain forever unfinished.
The first taste of Live: Vanquishers comes in the form of the song ‘VU Anxiety’, a song that never found its way onto an official Songs: Ohia release. Check out that recording, plus the tracklisting for Live: Vanquishers, down below. Live: Vanquishers will be released on March 4th.
Live: Vanquishers tracklisting:
1. ‘Nobody Tries That Hard Anymore’
2. ‘Are We Getting Any Closer’
4. ‘Being In Love’
5. ‘VU Anxiety’
8. ‘It Won’t Be Easy’
9. ‘She Came To Me As A Ghost’
10. ‘The Black Crow’
11. ‘Come Back To Your Man’