"What Comes After the Blues"

Secretly Canadian

"Where were the rest of my songs tonight?" asks Jason Molina in "Northstar Blues," and it's a question that most people who hear Magnolia Electric Co.'s latest release will want answered. The Ohio-bred singer-guitarist and his cohorts vary the presentation slightly, but the eight laments on "What Comes After the Blues" are all torn from the same ragged cloth. With Jennie Bedford's stark harmonies merely emphasizing Molina's essential aloneness, the singer checks off the standard inventory of empty roads, freight yards and broken hearts, as well as the alt-country troubadour's steadfast companion, death.

If Molina never varies his disposition, he does sometimes tweak the accompaniment. "The Dark Don't Hide It" opens the set with barbed electric guitar and a Neil Young vibe, while "Leave the City's" trudge is expedited slightly by a trumpet. The sound empties out as the disc progresses, leaving the singer almost solitary on the final tracks. That's not especially surprising. Molina has respect for Appalachian tradition and a sort of bleak integrity, but he's just not very good company.

-- Mark Jenkins

Appearing Monday at the Black Cat with Grand Buffet.

The Magnolia Electric Co. doesn't provide much power.