Alright, let's not ignore the muttonchopped, flannel-wearing, nasal-voiced elephant in the room here: Neil Young's influence has always loomed large over singer-guitarist Jason Molina, and on the studio debut of his latest group, Magnolia Electric Co., he isn't shy about running with the Crazy Horses. Especially on opener "The Dark Don't Hide It," a tempest of tattered guitars that's melancholized by an underpinning of pedal steel and the way Molina's dusty tenor rubs against backing singer Jennie Benford's twang as they spin a yarn of betrayal and resentment. The album grows more acoustic as it progresses through its eight tracks -- closers "Hammer Down" and "I Can Not Have Seen the Light" are essentially stark campfire ballads. Lyrically, Molina's a true harvester of sorrows throughout: Dashed dreams abound in the trumpet-laced folk-shuffle "Leave the City" and the ghostly "Hard to Love a Man," while visions of empty roads, graves, fitful sleep, and departed lovers appear throughout. Even if Molina hasn't yet found his own voice, Blues hits its ragged, mournful mark more often than it misses, and ultimately does his idol proud.
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