Songs: Ohia

Didn't It Rain

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After the densely textured, almost suffocating feel of Ghost Tropic, Didn't It Rain is like a blast of arctic wind. Recorded live, the album has a much looser, informal feel than its predecessor. This jam-session quality is also fostered by the addition of Jim Krewson and Jennie Benford from the neo-bluegrass band Jim & Jennie & the Pinetops, lending mandolin and close harmonies to the sparse, minor-key acoustic strumming of Jason Molina. But don't come expecting some sort of hootenanny. Lyrically, Didn't It Rain still delves into some dark territory, though not nearly as bleak as Ghost Tropic. One senses Molina trying to carve out some bare-bones truths and live without illusions when he sings on the title track of Emersonian self-reliance: "I'll call you friend indeed, but I'm going to watch my own back." Echoing this sentiment is "Ring the Bell," the best song on the album and one of the best in the entire Songs: Ohia catalog. Atop a harrowing cello drone, Molina sings, "Help does not just walk up to you" and "If there's a way out it will be step by step through the blackness" -- there may be transcendence somehow, but it's still necessary to deal with the here and now. Didn't It Rain also stands as Molina's most lyrically straightforward and personal statement, eschewing much of the oblique symbolism of his past. One of the songs is even called "Cross the Road, Molina," and on "Blue Factory Flame" he sings, "When I die put my bones in an empty street/Bring a Coleman lantern and a radio/Cleveland game and two fishing poles/And watch with me from the shore/Ghostly steel and iron ore," alluding to his childhood home on Lake Erie. Chicago (where Molina was stationed at the time of this album's recording) also figures heavily in a number of the songs, either directly ("Blue Chicago Moon") or indirectly ("Steve Albini's Blues"). All this adds up to easily the most satisfying Songs: Ohia album since Axxess & Ace. By all rights it should firmly establish Molina as one of the most distinctive singer/songwriters of his generation.

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