Tuesday, February 8, 2011

there is a me you would not recognize, dear.

Over The Rhine has a new CD coming out today. This is enough to make me dance a little in my chair as I sit here at work.

If you haven't heard of OtR, it's okay. They're kind of a little-known band from Cincinnati, and they've been playing music for the past 20 years--or rather, the husband-wife duo, Linford Detweiler and Karin Bergquist, have been making music for 20 years, and they've been joined by various musicians at different times during those years.

Their new album, The Long Surrender, is pretty great. I've been listening to it because it's streaming on their website. But a little background...

I was introduced to Over the Rhine during my senior year of college by Josh Anderson, who was the Opinions editor for our school paper (I was the news editor). He was writing a review of their newest album at the time, Drunkard's Prayer, which was Linford and Karin's, well, love song to each other after almost breaking up. After realizing they were falling apart, they canceled their tour, went home, and figured out how to save their marriage. Drunkard's Prayer was the result.

I loved it. It's stripped down, simple, but you can hear the love and the emotion in every song. Stuff like

We've seen the landfill rainbow
We've seen the junkyard of love

Baby, it's no place for you and me

Stuff like

Every day is a one-act play
Without an ending
("Stella's Tarantella")

They're versatile: in one album, you could have country and caberet and folk and rock. Trumpet Child is very jazzy. Drunkard's Prayer leans toward folk-rock, I'd say, and Ohio, their crazy double CD, has everything. And Karin's voice is like...well, here, have some "Jesus in New Orleans:"

"The last time I saw Jesus/I was drinking Bloody Marys in the South." How can you resist lyrics like that?

Now, they're sometimes classified as a "Christian band," in that they'll play at places like Cornerstone. I suspect that they wouldn't like that classification, that they'd rather be known by the quality of their music and lyrics. Perhaps they did themselves a favor with "Changes Come," because it moved them out of family-friendly territory with one short stanza:

I wanna have our baby
Somedays I think that maybe
This ol' world's too fucked up
For any firstborn son

Linford once said that they were "Christ-haunted," which Flannery O'Connor used to describe the South. I mean, really: they're a band that quotes Flannery O'Connor and Anne Lamott ("A little kick-ass beauty before we die") and references everyone from Robert Frost to Elton John when they give interviews.

If you're going to start with OtR, though, I'd suggest Good Dog Bad Dog. "Latter Days" is quite easily one of my favorite songs, though it's hard to pick one. And if I haven't convinced you, well, here, have some reviews.

For now, I'll leave you with the lyrics to "I Don't Wanna Waste Your Time," because it sorta feels like a theme for them:

I don’t wanna waste your time
With music you don’t need

Why should I autograph the book
That you won’t even read
I’ve got a different scar for every song
And blood left still to bleed
But I don’t wanna waste your time
With music you don’t need

I don’t wanna waste good wine
If you won’t stick around
I love to laugh but I’m more than just
Your alcoholic clown
I won’t pray this prayer with you
Unless we both kneel down
I don’t wanna waste good wine
If you won’t stick around

Come on lighten up
Let me fill your cup
I’m just trying to imagine a situation
Where we might have a real conversation

But I don’t wanna waste the words
That you don’t seem to need
When it comes to wanting what’s real
There’s no such thing as greed
I hope this night puts down deep roots
I hope we plant a seed
‘Cause I don’t wanna waste your time
With music you don’t need

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