Monday, November 2, 2015

Album Review: Songs: Ohia

Songs: Ohia was the brainchild of the late Jason Molina.  He released a debut album in 1997.  Known to some as "the black album", it consists mainly of a bunch of downbeat strums over which Molina yelps morosely.  Kind of like Neil Young on downers, it's mostly Molina and his guitar with the odd embellishment, such as the slight banjo on opening track Cabwaylingo which lifts this album out of the morass it occasionally threatens to sink into.  Crab Orchard is like Neil Young's Cortez the Killer stripped back completely and slowed to a crawl.

The wintry, backwoods feel of Gauley Bridge and Tenskwatawa brings to mind kinsmen such as Bonnie Prince Billy and early Smog and many of these tracks are quite brief, around the two minute mark.  The brooding Blue Jay introduces an uncredited wind instrument which may be a saxophone, played tastefully, while Our Republic has the stripped back sound Smog were perfecting on Red Apple Falls, with more added saxophone.  

It sure is a one-paced, repetitive album, difficult to get to know but it has a charm that's hard to define.  When you listen to it first it seems like there's not much there, but then you find yourself listening again... and again...