“Through the Static and Distance: The Songs of Jason Molina”
by various artists
Burst and Bloom Records/Haint Records
File under: Folk, Blues, Americana, Alt-Country
Sounds like: Each contributing artist loved Molina’s music in different ways
For those who take comfort in the music of Jason Molina, there is a distinct difference between life before that first listen and life after. Since his death in March 2013, this sentiment has taken on new meaning and Molina’s prolific career has become legend. His dark, countrified blues and haunting tales of hardship, lost love, and solitude are, more than ever, a most welcome companion. We are indebted to the Ohio-born songwriter, who performed as Songs: Ohia and Magnolia Electric Company, and whose pained voice was a beacon that helped so many listeners navigate difficult waters.
For Seacoast musician Dylan Metrano and others around the world, Molina’s death would bring them together to pay homage to a man who had an “unquantifiable” effect on their lives. Having corresponded with Molina for 15 years and played shows with him several times, Metrano immediately volunteered the talents of his band, Tiger Saw, and the resources of his record label, Burst and Bloom, to pay his respects. Together with Guy Capecelatro, Jesse Poe’s new Haint imprint, and a cast of more than 30 artists, they set out to honor their friend, bandmate and mentor on “Through the Static and Distance: The Songs of Jason Molina.”
As the project progressed, Metrano and Poe received an outpouring of support and submissions from artists, friends, and labels alike. “Each track that came in felt like a gift,” Metrano said. “What was originally intended to be a CD at some point turned into a vinyl LP, and then a double LP.”
The impressive roster of artists hail from as far away as England and Italy and represent over a dozen well-known record labels: Peter Hess and Eoin Russell, Guy Capecelatro III, Annie Fleming and Viking Moses, Bob Corn and Matteo Uggeri, Paul Watson, Tiger Saw, The Black Hare, Jesse Poe, Peter Hess and Joel Hamburger, Marissa Nadler, Stephen Bartolomei, Nad Navillus, The Verms, Mara Flynn, Jesse Rifkin, Brendan Quinn, Sharron Kraus, Thalia Zedek Band, Jason Anderson, and Small Sur.
It’s a daunting task to cover songs that were so intensely personal and reliant on one of music’s most distinctive voices. For these artists, the goal was simple, “Anyone who has ever performed or recorded someone else’s song understands that to cover a song is to find some way in, deeper than you could from just listening; it’s a way of knowing a song intimately, to make it your own and to love it,” the album’s liner notes read.
In this way, the tribute couldn’t be more successful. The songs presented are well chosen and suited to the strengths of the cast. Each recording brilliantly magnifies a particular characteristic of Molina’s writing and performance. Metrano adds, “We took great care to put something together that would suggest the breadth of his songwriting, while feeling cohesive as an album.”
In Annie Fleming and Viking Moses’ version of “Farewell Transmission,” from the seminal album, “Magnolia Electric Company,” the story in the song is beautifully and clearly displayed. Gone are the electric guitars and drums, replaced with a softer, slower acoustic number that puts Fleming’s sweet, fragile voice front and center. The result illuminates producer Steve Albini’s praise of Molina’s storytelling: “He was a genius at turning a phrase and making it into something more than the words in it.”
When Jason Anderson croons “The Dark Don’t Hide It,” he releases a quiet energy that perfectly captures the emotion in Molina’s work, despite lacking the volume normally found in his voice. Nad Navillus, who played “Constant Change” with Molina on the album “Mi Sei Apparso Come Un Fantasma,” got a second chance to showcase his powerful, soaring guitar work. In Marissa Nadler’s “It’s Easier Now,” her ghostly voice reminds us of the permanent impressions left by Molina’s held notes as they linger long after the song ends.
Italy’s Bob Corn crafted an especially memorable recording of “The Lioness” while walking around Barchessone Vecchio, the same venue where he booked Molina years before. Corn’s unique, accented voice is a testament to the songwriter’s unmistakable calling card. Other stand-out tracks from The Black Hare, Guy Capecelatro III, Steven Bartolomei, and Tiger Saw make this momentous album consistently compelling.
While most everyone agrees that Molina wouldn’t want anyone to make a fuss over him, for fans, friends and fellow musicians, this is the best “thank you” possible.
Many of the artists on “Through the Static and Distance” will gather for an album release show on Monday, Jan. 12 at 8 p.m. at The Red Door, 107 State St., Portsmouth, 603-373-6827. The album is available now on double LP and will be available for digital download on Jan. 22. The album, along with essays by the artists on what Molina’s songs mean to them, are available at staticanddistance.com.