Over The Rhine: FILMS FOR RADIO
Over The Rhine, the Cincinnati-based band fronted by husband & wife team Linford Detweiler and Karin Bergquist, have been meandering. Their latest offering, FILMS FOR RADIO on Virgin’s Backporch label, bears the fruit of these wanderings. Over The Rhine has been producing underground CDs for over 10 years, and this project comes after a hiatus of a few years between new releases.
Karin & Linford have been using their time well. This album proves it.
The eleven-song disc roves merrily from musical style to musical style, each style performed with a refreshing grace, talent, skill, and, occasionally, almost tongue-in-cheek humor. A new listener might be surprised to learn that all the songs come from the same band. Lyrically, the album’s writing is crisp, tight, personal, and strong — a hallmark of Over The Rhine. Even the liner notes are an entertaining read.
Production on the disc is consistent, and of a high quality. The booklet includes lyrics, liner notes, photographs by Michael Wilson (including a surprising photo of the recording studio!), and contact information. It is glossy, well-designed, and compliments the ‘feel’ of the project.
“The World Can Wait” launches the disc, offering catchy lyrics and a driving beat that confidently heralds this new sound for Over The Rhine. Karin’s soaring vocals are beautifully counter-pointed by the somber piano that seems to hesitantly drag itself forward in a compelling march.
“Give Me Strength” A fascinating vocal loop at the very beginning of the track… Does anyone know the origin? Borrowing the track from Dido Armstrong, Over The Rhine makes this song uniquely their own, and moves effortlessly into the style of Euro-pop.
“I Radio Heaven” A torchy, vampy style given a decidedly modern twist, thanks to Jack Henderson’s lap steel. One can almost imagine Karin tango-ing to this fun, smoky song that doesn’t take itself too seriously. "the truth is i bleed you/when these frequencies cut me/i'm a slut with a mission/a singular vision".
“Little Blue River”. Long-time fans will be thrilled to hear this concert staple that has finally made it to a record. A beautiful song even when done simply, with just acoustic guitars, this full-band treatment is precisely controlled and highlights the weary joy of the lyrics. Karin’s vocals soar in this piece, demonstrating her wonderful vocal instrument. Linford’s piano is absolutely joyful. Jack Henderson knows how to use the lap steel to add the perfect undercurrent to the song. "every step that you've been taking/is straying a little further south/as for me i am so tired of living (babe)/so hand-to-mouth".
The style of the guitar-driven “Whatever You Say” is perfect for driving, with the top down, fast, down some lonely country road, tapping your fingers on the steering wheel.
“The Body Is A Stairway Of Skin” offers heavy back-beat & slinky trance/techno style, and once again, Karin’s voice tackles the style effortlessly. The spoken word in the latter parts of this song is so perfectly mixed that it sounds, through headphones, as if Karin is leaning over your shoulder and whispering gently into your ear. An altogether pleasant experience.
One of my personal favorites, “Moth” again highlights the wonderfully strong songwriting of Detweiler & Bergquist. "and my answer to the years of strife/is the way i chose to live my life". Terri Templeton makes a too-rare appearance on this song, lending her ethereal voice to harmony vocals. I was very impressed that this song has been, apparently, re-recorded from the version previously released on the retrospective AMATEUR SHORTWAVE RADIO.
“When I Go” is a personal, vulnerable song revealing the mind of a lover who is leaving. Michael Timmons, from Cowboy Junkies, lends a seething guitar lead that expertly counter-points Karin’s delicate vocals.
Over The Rhine presents, with this latest offering, something for nearly every musical taste. They are masters of their craft; inventive and polished. FILMS FOR RADIO has been worth waiting for.
(I need to find some sunglasses like Linford’s!)