Album: Magnolia Electric Co

What Comes After the Blues, SECRETLY CANADIAN
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The Independent Culture

Despite the major labels' best efforts, a huge diversity of indie music continues to thrive in out-of-the-way corners of America, part of an underground network of inspired invention that's chosen to simply ignore the ossified mainstream. A vehicle for the songs of Jason Molina, Magnolia Electric Co are from Indiana's slate-town, Bloomington, about as midwest middle-of-nowhere as it gets; but this Steve Albini-produced eight-track album deserves to put the place firmly on the musical map. All the songs, Molina claims, were loosely inspired by Hank Williams' "I Saw the Light", dealing with matters of spiritual illumination in a sparse, abbreviated manner he calls "haiku rock'n'roll". On the opener "The Dark Don't Hide It", his band summon up some of the ragged glory of Crazy Horse for a bitter sermon on guilt, while for the weary road-song "Leave the City", they adopt a more melancholy country-rock style stained with worn, stately horns. Elsewhere, though, the strongest influences seem to come more from the English traditional folk scene. Molina's voice on "Give Something Else Away Every Day" has the stern, wind-blown quality of Richard Thompson, and there's a stark, haunted flavour to Jennie Benford's vocals on the tale of working-class factory life "Night Shift Lullaby" that recalls the likes of Anne Briggs and June Tabor.