Trials & Errors was recorded at a live show one night in Brussels in 2003, shortly after Jason Molina had put Songs: Ohia to rest. Drawing upon the talents of Pete Schreiner (drums), Mike Kapinus (bass and trumpet), and Jason Groth (guitar), Molina (providing second guitar and vocals) pieced together Magnolia Electric Co to further explore his country-rock side. With this rhythm section, Magnolia Electric Co is the perfect extension for Molina to grow and expand his country-rock -- the basslines flow melodically against the plucking and strumming of the guitars, while the drums lay down a backbone. One can hear the influence of Neil Young all over Trials & Errors with its loose, raw guitars and dark, melancholic vibe of vocals and lyrics all placed in a live setting. There are many rewarding moments throughout Trials & Errors, mainly as a result of the addition of the powerful rhythm section -- the opener, "The Dark Don't Hide It," blasts open the record, while the Songs: Ohia tune, "Almost Was Good Enough," has more punch and depth than the original. The hat must be tipped to Magnolia Electric Co, as they let the songs breathe and become bigger than the band to a haunting effect. Molina seems to have grown as a singer as well, which is evident on the Songs: Ohia tracks "Ring the Bell" and "Cross the Road." In the live setting and with a strong band backing him, Molina's vocals are stronger and mix the stylings of Will Oldham and Damien Jurado, displaying a sense of longing and despair. The only shortfall that could be noted is that Trials & Errors is a touch long, clocking in at 72 minutes, but fans of Molina, along with the audience, who you can tell had a wonderful time at this show, will feel that this is a bonus. Thankfully, Secretly Canadian knows that Trials & Errors, with its old Songs: Ohia covers, upcoming release tunes, and tracks that are unique to this disc, is a good way to hold fans' appetite for Magnolia Electric Co's studio debut in spring of 2005.
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AllMusic Review by David Serra