What's in a name? If you're Jason Molina, apparently not very much. Since releasing his first album under the Songs: Ohia moniker in 1997, he's recorded under that name, his own name, Magnolia Electric Company (which is also the title of the last Songs: Ohia album), and now the abbreviated Magnolia Electric Co. And while it can get tricky trying to keep all of his releases in order (three separate sections in a record store? Yeesh.), one thing has remained constant: Jason Molina writes some amazing songs.
Every name change manages to bring a slightly different sound. Songs: Ohia were the masters of subtle, understated folk, while Jason Molina the solo artist saw him with just a guitar and his utterly heartbreaking melancholia. Magnolia Electric Company was Molina's attempt at channeling '70s-era Neil Young, complete with some downright epic roots-rock jams, and finally the abbreviated Magnolia Electric Co. extends the roots-rock, with more room for incorporating blues and country. Each incarnation is inextricably linked, if not by Molina's signature warble/croon, then by the thematic songwriting. His songs often play out like a Steinbeck novel, complete with traveling, loss, and personal trials as major plot points, while the night, the moon, and ghosts serve as repetitive metaphors.
A few weeks back, Sojourner was released, an epic four-CD and one DVD box set of all-new material from the Co. Typically, box sets tend to be bloated affairs, full of either best-of tracks or sub-par B-sides. Sojourner, however, is quite the opposite. The four audio discs are leftovers and outtakes from recording sessions for the 2006 album Fading Trails—yet any one of them could have stood in for the album that made it to release, which goes to show the strength of Molina's songwriting.
It doesn't matter which name adorns the album cover. As long as Jason Molina is writing the songs, you can rest assured it will be fantastic.