album reviews

Magnolia Electric Co.
Fading Trails
Secretly Canadian (2006)
Catfish Haven
Tell Me
Secretly Canadian (2006)

With more than a dozen albums in as many years as well as myriad 7-inch singles, EPs and tour-only recordings, Jason Molina has revealed not only his prolificacy but also his restlessness: He has used a different backing band on nearly every recording, and he has recorded under his own name as well as the monikers Songs: Ohia and Magnolia Electric Co.

Molina always sounds melancholy -- his voice bears an uncanny resemblance to the mournful tones of Neil Young -- but the mellow tone of his latest full-band effort, "Fading Trails," magnifies that downheartedness. "The Old Horizon" conveys a quiet despair with its sparseness and stretched tempo, while "Don't Fade on Me" relies on a pronounced drumbeat and wailing guitars.

Molina depends too much on his lyrical standbys (the moon appears in all but two of the album's nine tracks, and "the blues" pops up almost as frequently), but the rich sorrow of "Fading Trails" makes it a particularly intriguing point on his extensive discography.

Catfish Haven captures a more exuberant energy on its blues-rock debut, "Tell Me," which showcases George Hunter's hoarse howl and Miguel Castillo's throbbing bass lines. The trio's rowdiness is augmented by the handclapped rhythm of the title track, the soulful backing singers on "I Don't Worry" and the horn accents on "Down by Your Fire," giving "Tell Me" an impressive depth for a first album.

-- Catherine P. Lewis

.: Originally published: The Washington Post: 15 September 2006, Page WE10
.: Items mentioned above on Fading Trails (Magnolia Electric Co., 2006); Tell Me (Catfish Haven, 2006).