Over The Rhine

‘Pleased To Meet Me’ set to debut on iTunes

So unless you happened to catch the the film Pleased To Meet Me at one of a handful of indie film festivals this year, you’ve probably been wondering what this project featuring the acting skills of Joe Henry is all about.  Well, starting tomorrow, you can purchase the film in the iTunes store and find out for yourself.

The film, directed by Archie Borders, features a veritable who’s who of Joe Henry universe regulars:  Aimee Mann, Karin Bergquist, Loudon Wainwright III and X’s John Doe in a lead role (Doe no stranger to acting himself).  You can read more about the film here and watch the trailer below (which features a very sultry rendition of “Time Is A Lion” sung by Karin):

Wild Edges: A Recap

(Apologies for the relative lateness of this post, but as you know – since you are reading this post at the new site – I’ve been a little busy with the move of the blog.  Thanks for your patience and thanks for checking out the new blog location. – DK)

Wild_EdgesJosh Hurst – a friend and occasional contributor to this blog – joked this past weekend about how he personally “willed into existence” last year’s collaboration between Elvis Costello and The Roots, two acts for whom he is very passionate.  One could make a similar observation that Wild Edges – a commissioned performance of original songs from Joe Henry, Over The Rhine and The Milk Carton Kids – might have likewise been the result of subconscious prayer and wishful thinking from Josh, myself or any number of fans of these intertwined talents.

Setting aside the complete uniqueness of the event (over two nights at Durham’s Hayti Heritage Center), one could conceivably worry that the endeavor would look better on paper than it would sound in execution.  It is, after all, a tall order for artists to compose and perform original music, never heard in public in any format, and connect it to the ears of an expectant audience.  If anticipation was already high, the stunning and intimate setting of the Hayti certainly raised the stakes.

All that said, however, it will surprise few readers of this blog that I and – judging from their exuberant reaction – nearly everyone in attendance walked away from the two nights with all expectations met and exceeded, not to mention souls and spirits nourished and renewed.  The premise was to connect selections from the Great American Songbook – which in this context was represented by inspirations such as “Delia’s Gone”, “The Needle and The Damage Done”, “Spring Can Hang You Up The Most” and many others – to the new songs.  Those connections were occasionally explicit but mostly provided springboards for the compositions, which, according to Henry, would have to “fight it out in the streets,” just like any other songs.

And fight they did; though in these capable hands, they mostly floated like butterflies while occasionally stinging like bees.  Almost every song had something unique to offer.  Henry’s “The Glorious Dead” certainly sounded like something lifted directly from his own songbook, but, as Linford Detweiler pointed out, sounded like “an unearthed hymn.”  “Dangerous Love” was a swinging tune on its own merits, but Levon Henry’s wicked saxophone solo that capped off the performance wrenched it off its foundations.  Both evenings opened with “Los Lunas,” which was as perfect a song as I’ve heard Karin Bergquist sing, underpinned by Kenneth Pattengale’s lilting pedal steel.  Joey Ryan had several standout performances, and his voice proved to be a key ingredient on many of the evening’s songs.  Ryan reliably provided dry comic relief in between more than a few of the songs.

The cast was superbly accompanied by Henry regulars Jennifer Condos (bass) and Jay Bellerose (drums, percussion and assorted noise), along with Levon on clarinet and saxophone.  The performances were packed with musical highlights but certainly his contributions were among the most indelible.  Likewise, Pattengale no doubt shocked the audience with his vast reserves of instrumental talent, which included impressive work on pedal steel, dobro, electric guitar, accordion and piano.  The number of participants ranged from two (when Pattengale accompanied Bergquist with his soulful piano on a tune only played during the second evening) to all participants, with all points in between as various cast members left the stage briefly.  Unsurprisingly, with this batch of talent, the arrangements never threatened to overshadow or suffocate the songs themselves.

The proceedings were recorded by engineer Ryan Freeland for possible future release, and after two nearly flawless presentations, one should anticipate that little will prevent that from happening.

Followers of these acts are most likely the type of music fans who hold dear the notion that music is more than mere entertainment and can occasionally achieve transcendence.  My guess is that all who bore witness to these miraculous two nights of music walked away with that assumption both intact and fortified.

Here are a couple of reviews from the local North Carolina press:

Wild Edges anticipation builds

Duke University's Independent Daily has a little more backstory on this week's Wild Edges performance at the Hayti Center in Durham, as well as some information on what may happen with the live recordings.

Also, check out Karin and Linford's photo feed for some behind-the-scenes pictures of this week's rehearsals.

Joe Henry with Over The Rhine & Milk Carton Kids (Durham, NC – April 11 & 12)

JH will team with Over The Rhine and The Milk Carton Kids for a very unique event in April, performing at the Hayti Heritage Center in Durham, NC.

From The Milk Carton Kids' website:

"In April, the band will join forces with friends for their new project Wild Edges. In collaboration: Joe HenryOver The Rhine and The Milk Carton Kids. The result is a one-of-a-kind ensemble set to engage the "Great American Songbook," performing a set of songs that embraces songwriters from Robert Johnson to Jimmy Webb, Woody Guthrie to Nina Simone. The all-star group unites for an only-at-Duke Performances special event: in front of a live audience at Hayti Heritage Center–Henry, Over the Rhine, and The Milk Carton Kids will perform and record an album of new songs they wrote together."

So if that sounds like something you'd be interested in… tickets still available here.

Autumn Joe Henry update


Well, we've had several nights in the 50's here in Houston, which must mean the rest of you in the Northern Hemisphere are enjoying between seasonal and frigid conditions.  As such, I apologize for the lack of posts recently and hope this will catch you up on a few recent JH happenings.

  • Furious Cool: Richard Pryor and the World That Made Him, by David Henry and Joe Henry, has just been released by Algonquin Books.  The hardcover recently shipped and the e-book should be out any day now.  Brothers David and Joe will be doing a few signings around the country, if you can catch them.  This is at the top of my reading list – can't wait!
  • JH will be delivering a few more acoustic performances in December, following his rousing sucess at Largo this past July.  Dates are as follows:  Dec 3, Minneapolis; Dec 4, Chicago; Dec 5, Ann Arbor; Dec 7, Seattle.  Not to be missed if you are nearby.
  • UK duo Chas & Dave have just released their new record That's What Happens, produced by JH at Abbey Road Studios.  It is available at Amazon UK (still awaiting delivery of my copy).
  • Divided & United: The Songs of the Civil Warwas released yesterday by ATO Records.  This unique project celebrates a unique period in American and American music history.  JH contributes several productions by artists like Taj Mahal, Chris Hillman, John Doe and T-Bone Burnett.  He is also backed on a track of his own by The Milk Carton Kids (you can hear the whole record over at Garden & Gun).
  • Speaking of whom, I had the great pleasure of seeing The Milk Carton Kids at their sold out Houston show last night.  They'll be heading back to LA and hosting a revue at Largo next Tuesday, Nov 12.  Who knows who might turn up?  They'll also be back at Largo on Saturday, Nov 16.
  • Close JH friend Sam Phillips will also be at Largo this weekend for her only solo shows of the year (Nov 9 is sold out, Nov 10 is on sale).  She will be backed by JH cohorts Jay Bellerose, Jennifer Condos and Greg Leisz.
  • Over The Rhine will wind up their fall tour on the West Coast in the coming weeks.  They will continue to be backed by Jay Bellerose, Jennifer Condos and Eric Heywood, who contributed their talents to their double CD Meet Me At The Edge Of The World.  Dates here – I can't imagine who might turn up at The El Rey!
  • You might recall that New West Records auctioned a number of 7-inch singles to benefit Replacements guitarist Slim Dunlap earlier in the year.  On Nov 12, they will release a compliation of the tracks, which feature a number of production contributions from JH as well as his excellent take of "Taken On The Chin."  The 2 CD set will feature tracks not previously available.
  • Glen Hansard will release an EP on Nov 25, featuring his epic cover of Bruce Springsteen's "Drive All Night".  The track features vocals from JH and Eddie Vedder, plus sax by Jake Clemons (nephew of Clarence Clemons).  The track was recorded at Garfield House and produced by JH.  You can hear the song over at Rolling Stone.

That's about all I know for now.  I know of at least one artist who has recently graced the basement of Garfiled House, and I would expect to hear about that project in the coming months.  And, of course, all indications are that we'll be hearing about a new JH album any day now.  Fingers crossed!

Over The Rhine – ‘Meet Me At The Edge Of The World’: A Review by Josh Hurst

{Ed. note:  Once again, writer and critic Josh Hurst has generously offered up a review for the site, this time for Over The Rhine's sprawling double CD Meet Me At The Edge Of The World.  Many thanks to him for the letting us enjoy it here…}

OverTheRhineColor2-Darrin-Ballman1Long before we knew anything else about Over the Rhine’s 2013 LP—before we (or they, possibly) knew that it was a double album, before we knew that its songs would be harvested and preserved in a South Pasadena basement studio, before we even knew that it would arrive in our mailboxes in 2013—we were told that the album would be called The Farm. It is not a very evocative title, and there is a feeling of rightness to the album’s finished title Meet Me at the Edge of the World, which perfectly encapsulates the particular and peculiar mystery of this nineteen-song cycle; listeners will doubtless feel that this was meant to be the record’s title all along, that it was only briefly christened The Farm because its real name had not yet fully revealed itself.

But in the world of Over the Rhine, names—even temporary ones—always mean something: The Farm, placeholder though it may be, is a title that strikes me as quintessentially Over the Rhine. It might have almost been a fitting title for this album because the album is—yes—rooted in a very specific piece of real estate, an actual Ohio farm that’s playfully referred to by its caretakers as Nowhere (Now Here?)—but also because, with Over the Rhine, there has always been a certain workmanlike quality to the writing and recording of songs. I don’t mean that in a bad way: There are musicians who are more like architects than farmhands, raising towers forged from imagination and ego in equal measure, ambition tempered with indulgence. Over the Rhine—who are, we all know by now, husband/wife team Linford Detweiler and Karin Bergquist—have been given a garden of songs to tend and to harvest, and they do so with a genuinely affecting warmth and faithfulness, growing their songs from season to season, whether lovingly homemade recordings or gussied-up films for radio. They do what they do, one always feels, for the profoundly simple reason that it’s the job they’ve been given, the particular piece of earth they’ve been asked to till. Few musicians seem to share their profound sense of vocation.

So this new album, then: It was recorded with captain/producer Joe Henry and his crew, in Joe’s basement studio. He also produced The Long Surrender, which came out in 2011 and is probably still my personal favorite Over the Rhine record, though this one is just as fully-formed and is even more sweeping in its scope. He is such a simpatico producer that one imagines he might have become a full-fledged member of the band, had he been living in the right Ohio town at the right time in the 1980s. And it’s not hard to imagine what Linford and Karin see in him; like them, Joe Henry is a songwriter whose compositions always sound like he plucked them clean out of the air, even though he probably puts a great deal of hard work and elbow grease into making them sound so effortless and organic. 

Meet Me at the Edge of the World is a collection of country music, I think, more than any other Over the Rhine album to date. I don’t just say that because it is music about the country, nor because there is a heavy dose of steel guitar here, blurring the edges of these songs with mystery and grace. I say it because the songs are simple and direct, their emotions immediately apparent, the lyrics personal and unadorned. (What I mean to say is, Linford’s Leonard Cohen/Blonde on Blonde fixations never seem to surface here; there is no “Infamous Love Song.”)

The vibe is rustic, ramshackle, and dusty; previous Over the Rhine albums have generally been marked by Linford’s piano and Karin’s singing, presented with clarity and precision, but Meet Me feels like a new chapter, one in which the traditional roles of the band need not be so clearly-defined as they have been in the past. The piano plays a smaller role here than on any Over the Rhine album since—well, Eve, probably. Linford and Karin develop some rich harmonies throughout the album; he has never been more present as a singer, and indeed, the two share their first-ever recorded duet (discounting things like “Don’t Wait for Tom,” I reckon) at the beginning of Disc 2. The cumulative effect is a kind of mystic vibe that replaces the last album’s swirling, Astral Weeks feel with a more rooted and earthy barnyard hum—with, I should say, some heavy Big Pink vibes, especially in the Garth Hudson-styled organ that accents “Called Home.” (There is an actual Band song on the second half of the album, too.)

Press-photo-11-hiIt is a warmer and more assured album than their previous double, Ohio, and more sophisticated, to boot. Double albums are known for their great sprawl, but this is no White Album, nor even a Sign ‘o’ the Times; the nine songs that make up the first disc are as tight and as unified a sequence as Over the Rhine has ever released, developing lyrical motifs and sustaining a consistent mood even as the songs dart down the occasional side road—the handclap funk on “Gonna Let My Soul Catch My Body,” for example. The second disc is a continuation of the first and the same themes spill over, but it’s also a little more loose and unencumbered, its edges left wild. A couple of brief instrumentals add character and context to the album—though they’re each just a minute long, they feel essential to the fabric of this record—and the Band song (“It Don’t Make No Difference”) is re-imagined as something that’s simultaneously easygoing and heartbreaking; they make it their own, even while tipping their hat to some of this collection’s musical and spiritual touchstones. 

I used the word “heartbreaking,” and I’m not the first person to do so in the context of an Over the Rhine album. I remember seeing the band perform, in the summer when they released their jubilant and celebratory Trumpet Child album, and Karin joked at the time that the band would soon return to writing their songs of sadness and melancholy. Meet Me at the Edge of the World is not a melancholy record, though, and in fact it sounds to me like the sound of contentment. It’s an album about home, written from the perspective of two travelers who have found that very place; they may still miss it, as they take their songs out into the world, but it’s an affectionate longing for a destination they know and love, not the restlessness of two seekers. (Likewise: The song called “I’d Want You” is not a song of loneliness for an unnamed, undiscovered lover, it doesn’t seem to me, but one of longing and desire for a particular beloved.)

The record’s contentedness does not mean it is frivolous, or even that it is marked by a prevailing sense of good cheer; there is a warmth of love, acceptance, and familiarity here that illuminates that record’s darkest corners, and bolsters the listener’s spirits as he allows these mysteries to wash over him. And indeed, the album’s mantra to “leave the edges wild”—which appears in many of its songs, on both discs—bids us to avoid compartmentalizing the record too neatly. Contented though Linford and Karin sound to me, then, it is worth noting that the album makes multiple mentions to sacrifices made; this sense of home is hard-won and long fought for, it seems. I also hear several mentions of mortality here; the title of the song “Called Home” takes on two meanings, and a song on the second disc considers the question that all long-time lovers face sooner or later, if they’re honest with themselves—“who’s gonna bury who?” 

The performances and the production ensure that there are small, sensual pleasures to be found throughout the album—that Garth Hudson organ on “Called Home,” the reliable thump of Jay Bellerose’s drums, the seductive slow burn of “I’d Want You,” and on down the line. “Highland County” is an amiable country shuffle; “Wait,” which recaptures the incredible holy-moment feel of the last album’s “Rave On,” pays off the album’s patient and luxurious pacing with something so aching, you can feel it on your skin. The duet on “All Over Ohio” might just make it the essential Over the Rhine song, Linford’s plainspoken drawl and Karin’s soulful gale perfectly encapsulating the strange and wondrous alchemy that has for so long been the group’s calling card.

OvertheRhineColor-byDarrinBallmanOn and on goes the list: “Earthbound Love Song,” a backporch folk song that references Johnny and June (the patron saints of musical couples, I dare say), wonders if joy and redemption are as real on Earth as they are in the sweet hereafter, a gospel flourish that grounds the album’s themes of contented domesticity. “Cuyahoga” is one of the minute-long instrumentals, but it feels like it could go on forever, steadily flowing like the river that gives it its name; “The Birds of Ohio,” meanwhile, is a playful piano showcase. (I mention them both to emphasize that they are not “interludes” or throwaways, despite their brevity.) And in the band’s grand tradition of perfect album closers, which draw together all the thematic strands that have preceded, there is “Favorite Time of Light.” The last album ended with a spiritual of human brokenness, “All My Favorite People,” and this one is a kind of a spiritual as well, I think—only this time, it’s a quietly stirring witness to the joys that arise from little things, small moments of grace, shared together.

I said before that, in the world of Over the Rhine, names are important. Meet Me at the Edge of the World—the album formerly known as The Farm—could have very easily been titled Over the Rhine, and none of us would have had to ask why. (It is a masterwork in the truest sense, that is.) This feels like the most personal set of songs the band has ever recorded, the one that’s the most them—and yes, I’ve heard Drunkard’s Prayer. Its affection for a specific piece of land—called Nowhere; called Home—is something that only Linford and Karin could have conjured, yet it is also universal in its resonance. This band—restless in leaving life’s edges wild, but sounding assured of the work that’s theirs to do—bids the listener to sit, be still, to revel in small joys, to find meaning in vocation and in homes both heavenward and earthbound. By which I mean only to say that, like every other record released by Over the Rhine, this one feels like a unique an invaluable gift.

Paste magazine visits with Linford Detweiler; MMATEOTW headed to fans

Linford Detweiler of Over The Rhine spoke with Paste about the upcoming double album, Meet Me At The Edge Of The World (produced by JH; due Sep. 3).  You can also listen to the Track #3 from the record "Sacred Ground."

However, in more exciting news, fans who funded the record have received shipping notices that their packages are on the way.  So you should start hearing a collective murmur of excitement from OtR fans over the next days!