Kevin Morby and Waxahatchee - Farewell Transmissions/The Dark Don't Hide It - Singles - Reviews - Soundblab

Kevin Morby and Waxahatchee - Farewell Transmissions/The Dark Don't Hide It

by Mark Moody Rating:10 Release Date:2018-01-25
Kevin Morby and Waxahatchee - Farewell Transmissions/The Dark Don't Hide It
Kevin Morby and Waxahatchee - Farewell Transmissions/The Dark Don't Hide It

The late and sadly overlooked songwriter and bandleader Jason Molina gets the cover treatment at the hands of Kevin Morby and Waxahatchee on two of his lost classics. The leadoff tracks from Songs:Ohia’s Magnolia Electric Company and later renamed band Magnolia Electric Company’s What Comes After the Blues are put up for offer. The prolific Molina died at age 39 of alcoholism related organ failure and in tribute Morby and Waxahatchee’s Katie Crutchfield are donating all proceeds to MusiCares. The foundation serves to provide medical and financial support to musicians in need. In this era of light remuneration for artists and in memory of Molina’s struggles it’s a noble cause. Also fitting is the cover art by William Schaff who did the cover of the original Magnolia Electric Company album and here has painted a mournful reflection of the original - owl with pierced breast and broken heart.

First up is the seven minute ‘Farewell Transmissions’, which is converted from a tortured electric epic to a slow to simmer ballad which retains the guitar line but counter balances with strummed acoustic as well. Morby leads off with his voice full of longing, carried forward from last year’s excellent and reflective study on New York City, City Music. Frankly, the opening lyrics would have fit right in on Morby’s album. But when Crutchfield joins in a few lines later - “now we’ll all be sisters of the fossil blood of the moon” - her voice strong and confident as on last year’s Out in the Storm, the magic of these two performing together becomes palpable. The lonesome guitar hook weaves through the entire song as Morby and Crutchfield go from call and response to perfectly ragged harmonies. The fatalistic poetry of Molina’s lyrics forms a solid backbone, with Crutchfield’s line, “I’ll streak his blood across my beak and dust my feathers with his ash” particularly standing out. And later when they trade endless lines starting with “the real truth about is” the song continues to build in power. As Morby’s City Music did with his characters, their treatment of the song feels they are trying to conjure up Molina, as if the listener stumbled into the midst of ritual.

‘The Dark Don’t Hide It’ is more of a Crazy Horse style rave-up and reminiscent of the duet of the original with Molina and Jennie Benford. The edge in Crutchfield’s voice astride Morby’s world weary cadence along with the soaring solos make this track a smoldering thing of beauty. Molina’s line “you found the kind you knew would only kill you, so you surrounded yourself with them” comes off less as condemnation than pensive regret. The tight harmonies in the chorus have the duo channeling a latter day John Doe and Exene in perfect synch musically and on the same emotional plane. And if some of the soloing is the work of Hand Habits (aka Meg Duffy) she puts her stamp on this track as well.

To make a claim that these versions are better than the originals would not be what Morby and Crutchfield were going for, but performing these in tribute to Molina does put them in a different and powerful perspective from the originals. Morby and Crutchfield were in each other’s orbits quite a bit last year, so having them performing together was a natural but unsuspected surprise. They nail these two tracks both in performance and in recommissioning Molina’s body of work. Hopefully people take notice. Already operating at the height of their artistic powers individually, having these two join forces is just not fucking fair to everyone else. It’s just not, but selfishly hope it happens many more times.

Comments (2)

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I think Crutchfield's voice is miscast here. The versions of these songs are very disappointing. What Comes After the Blues and Magnolia Electric Co are both essential purchases to discover Molina's brilliance. Great recreation of the artwork and...

I think Crutchfield's voice is miscast here. The versions of these songs are very disappointing. What Comes After the Blues and Magnolia Electric Co are both essential purchases to discover Molina's brilliance. Great recreation of the artwork and a worthy cause.

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I wish John Doe and Exene Cervenka would do versions Mark !

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