Some local music scenes like Dayton’s might be too eclectic to associate to one style. However, if you expand the definition to a region, the beginnings of a signature sound start to take shape. Imagine a region that stretches as far south as Nashville, west to Louisville and east towards West Virginia and due north to Cleveland-Akron. On a map, it might be look like the Ohio River Valley, but as a sound it has two distinct major styles.
In the north there is the sparse rustic nature of Mark Kozelek and Jason Molina. Points south and west are home to sweet melodies of My Morning Jacket (Louisville) and Lambchop (Nashville). Geograpically, the region’s highest profile bands (Guided By Voices and My Morning Jacket) seem to borrow from both the northern and southern extremes of the region.
Guided By Voices and My Morning Jacket (MMJ)might have some similarities in the prodigious outputs of their leaders. My Morning Jacket is often mistakenly labeled alt country, despite having some influences that overlap.
I encountered MMJ by mistake actually. Thinking that a new EP was coming from Jason Molina (of Songs:Ohia fame) the new recording was actually was a split recording featuring four new songs from My Morning Jacket and only one (10 minute long) track from Molina.
Had it not been for an experiment (or was it a joke?) “The Year In Review” from My Morning Jacket, this easily could have been one of my favorite EPs of all time.
In retrospect, I see Split as a maxi single from one of my favorite artists (Jason Molina) and one hell of a great new discovery sampler from MMJ.
The three tracks from MMJ have everything I enjoy about alt-rock. Strong rhythms and vocal performances with moments of reverbed Americana. The melodies and harmonies at times are as soft and delicate as those from Lambchop and as structured and driving as Band of Horses. Best of all Jim James combines slightly surreal lyrics with dark yet beautiful arrangements like the wonderful “How Do You Know” and “Come Closer”.
The only fly in the ointment was “The Year in Review” which is little more than the first three songs sped up to the point of sounding comical, except I really wish Mr. Jones would have sang a acapella version of one of his tracks instead. In Jim James’ defense, he has stated that MMJ likes to use EPs to experiment – some times it works and in this case it did not.
Normally I would assume a Jason Molina song to be the highlight of any assorted artist compilation, but this EP is so strong that even his contribution does not stand out (beyond it’s epic length). That’s not to say that “Translation” is not a great song, because it is. Molina actually teams up with one of Louisville’s other musical heroes Will Oldham. The two named their one off collaboration Amalgamated Sons of Rest. Oldham can be heard in the background (ever so slightly), occasionally creating an interesting harmony with Molina. Then they overlap, they create a synergy that adds dimension to Molina’s vocals like what Jesu did for Sun Kil Moon a few years ago.
Molina actually teams up with one of Louisville’s other musical heroes Will Oldham. The two named their one off collaboration Amalgamated Sons of Rest. Oldham can be heard in the background (ever so slightly), occasionally creating an interesting harmony with Molina. Then they overlap, they create a synergy that adds dimension to Molina’s vocals like what Jesu did for Sun Kil Moon a few years ago.
In a strange little way Split is a partial sample of some of the region’s most creative forces coming together. While not a MMJ and Jason Molina collaboration in the truest since, there is enough crossover in influences and styles to make this EP worth seeking out for fans of both artists.