“When I die… put my bones in an empty street to remind me how it used to be.” The lyrics from the song “Blue Factory Flame” is more poignant now than when Jason Molina stretched out those words back in 2002 when he released his sixth album. For many fans of Songs:Ohia, Didn’t It Rain may be Molina’s grand opus. The album is definitive to what Songs:Ohia is all about, and a beautiful swan song from seven years of brilliance. Often equipped with just a guitar and a voice, Molina paints a picture of 21st Century Midwest culture through simplicity and brutal honesty.
And even when he surrounds himself by a full band, a song like “Blue Chicago Moon” is still washed with a late-night haze and a lonely aura that surrounds the music, like the fog coming off the Michigan.
I can say that Didn’t It Rain is hard to listen to. Upon learning about his death in 2013 due to alcoholism, we immediately felt the loss of an amazing singer-songwriter. His contribution to the independent music scene was unmatching. His style seemed to fit right into the late ‘90s spectrum of indie music, and as time changed, his need for change kept his compositions embedded in time, almost making a stand that what he was doing was enough that time did not matter. 12 years later, Molina proved that as Didn’t It Rain is timeless.
And what a lovely portrayal of the fragility of life without being a fragile album. As a last release under the Songs:Ohia moniker, Didn’t It Rain is a quiet album that made a loud statement. Molina told things exactly how they were and how he saw it. At the time, this album was not a cry for help as far as we can tell, it was just a piece of life, real, sometimes sad, and sometimes content with the sadness.
We may never have been able to guess Molina’s next move as he was constantly transforming and shifting, but since the self-titled release on Secretly Canadian, we could feel his abrupt honesty. Molina started Songs: Ohia (partly named after the Hawaiian tree and the other a twist on his home state of Ohio) in 1996 with 2000 seeing him at the height of his career, releasing three albums that year. By 2002, when he released Didn’t It Rain, it seemed like a mysterious take on the change from Songs: Ohia to Magnolia Electric Co., it was as dissiminating as the reasoning he chose the bluegrass group Jim & Jennie & the Pinetops as his backing band.
Bluegrass overtones, you will not hear, but you will feel a religious-like solitude and reflective attitude on this album. What the album reminds me of is the same feeling one gets when they listen to the Cowboy Junkies’ The Trinity Sessions. And even more so when you start digging into the bedroom demos that are tacked on to this reissue. Like “Ring the Bell” with a working title of “Depression No. 42,” you experience the core essence of what Molina was trying to convey on this album, and surprising, even in a stripped-down version of album favorites like “Blue Factory Flame” and “Two Blue Lights” Molina’s work hold up strong.
I would guess Molina was always fighting the demons. Didn’t It Rain just gives us an understanding how controllable he was keeping the demons at bay. It’s a shame they eventually won. At least we have this sincere album along with Secretly Canadian’s rare finds culminated together.