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Hammer Down

 

Jason Molina, the singer, songwriter, and only consistent member of musical projects Songs: Ohia and Magnolia Electric Co., died a few days ago at the age of 39. During Molina’s lifetime, the appeal of his music lay partly in the tension between its well-loved country tropes (lonesome highways, lovers left behind) and what played more like the sounds of Molina’s interior–the specifics, the lived experiences, that he decorated with imagery handed down from Hank Williams and George Jones. Following his passing, the division between the two blurs even further, and his premature death may seem like a foregone conclusion to listeners who discover Molina’s music later on. Ghosts populate his albums and the empty roads or small town dives within them.

The death and its circumstances (Molina’s years-long struggle with alcohol abuse) will also, in all likelihood, come to define how many people hear his entire catalog. As someone who did not know Molina, I can’t suggest with any authority that we try to mourn the man and not the persona–my estimation of where one ended and the other began is no more reliable than anyone else’s. But–to use another shopworn trope–in his absence, he leaves a hole in the lives of the listeners who were touched by his work.

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