on February 27, 2004
I'm new to Over the Rhine. I don't have much in the way of context to review them. I happened to be lucky enough to hear them on radioparadise(dotcom), an online radio station that plays some really incredible music. I owe them a great deal, not the least of which is an empty wallet from all the new music that I've purchased in the last couple of months.
Hmmm... how to describe them. Superb musicianship, an incredible vocalist, lyrics that put most other bands to shame, a band that drifts effortlessly from country to R&B to gospel. I don't know what to do with these guys. I'm a fan of what the 4AD label used to be, and if OTR had been around ten to fifteen years ago, they should have been on that label. To me, that's a compliment - others may think differently.
I'm almost afraid of checking into their backcatalog for fear of disappointment, this album is so good.
The title track makes me cry. A song about how home is where home is, no matter where it is or how pretty it is or otherwise. The last time I cried at any type of music was "song to the siren" from This Mortal Coil. Ten plus years ago. These guys are for real, packing a lyrical punch that hits you right HERE.
I can't do these guys justice, but it is really wonderful music. I can't recommend it highly enough.
on January 25, 2004
Oh my god. I'd never heard anything by Over the Rhine before - not a song. A work colleague who sits near me lent me the second CD of `Ohio' and I listened to it on my headphones. About ten bars into `Long Lost Brother' the hairs on my neck were standing on end. Now I've listened to both CDs five times each over the last couple of days, and I can't stop. I've read all the reviews here, and elsewhere, and hunted down interviews with the band, trying to get my head around how anyone can make such intimate, poignant, heartbreakingly beautiful music.
Probably much the same as anyone who hears OtR for the first time, I spent a while searching for points of reference for Karin Burgquist's voice. I came up with `Sarah McLachlan after a bottle of whisky', `the musical love child of Edith Piaf and Tom Waits', and then gave up. Comparisons fail. In any case, I cede to other comments in these Amazon reviews: `like calico smoke'; `like the mouth of a river flowing from somewhere far away but familiar'; like one long sigh'. All I know is it sends shivers down my spine.
And the music - the acoustic guitar, bass, drums, pedal steel and, above all, piano, are sparse and purposeful, adding emphases and flourishes but still leaving acres of space for Karin Burgquist's voice to float in, weary and sexy and ethereal all at once.
At first I thought I much preferred the second CD. Now the first is probably my favourite. Different songs have grown on me, while I still like the ones that first caught my attention. After several listens I've realised that one of the strengths of OtR is the clever and evocative lyrics. But the first couple of times I had tears in my eyes without even *hearing* any of the lyrics. There are other paradoxes: how can this band be so technically proficient yet still sound so direct and raw? How is it that in their most powerful moments they sound like they're holding something in? (In the last choruses of `Changes Come', Karin is hardly pronouncing the words, sounding like she's choking something back - tears? anger?).
There's gospel, R&B and folk here, with country probably predominant. I'm tempted to suggest, however, that if you like music, full stop, and have a functioning attention span, you'll fall in love with `Ohio' and with Over the Rhine. I for one am a convert.
on November 15, 2003
Over the Rhine is one of the best-kept secrets of modern pop music. Named for the troubled neighborhood in Cincinnati (their hometown), they have cultivated a signature sound which owes few allegiances to any "school" of music in particular. At their frequent best, they can zap an unsuspecting listener with sheer sonic beauty.
This is their ninth official release (or tenth, depending on how you count), and in many ways it is the album they were always meant to make. Singer Karin Bergquist's voice has deepened and matured with time, rendering the impressionistic lyrics (written mostly by her and husband Linford Detweiler) in a voice that often resembles a long, sweet sigh. Musically, the songs are piano-based and the arrangements often stark, throwing the melodies and words into sharp emotional relief. The lyrics fuse knowing meditations on love with spiritual questions never far out of reach.
Some highlights: The title track, a wistful and warm tribute to their home state; "Nobody Number One", the clipped, almost spoken words contrasting deliciously with the soaring chorus; "Bothered", a lovely meditation on childhood (among other things) that previously appeared in a rather spooky arrangement on the "Eve" album; and "Jesus in New Orleans", an inspired mix of the sacred and the profane worthy of Patti Smith (not that it sounds anything like Patti; it's just the overall feeling of the lyric).
All of Over the Rhine's previous albums, especially "Patience" and "Good Dog Bad Dog", are worth picking up, and might even be better places to start, but "Ohio" is clearly their magnum opus, the album they always seemed to be on the verge of. This music will never be at the top of the charts, which is the highest compliment I can pay to anyone these days. But for those who are looking for music that is not afraid to ask questions, express emotions, and strike a chord with its listeners, "Ohio" is the closest to a sure thing I can recommend.
on August 24, 2003
When people ask me, "What is that music you're playing? I love it." I say, "That is Over the Rhine. That music is from their album called 'Good Dog Bad Dog.'" For now on the answer to that question will more often be "That music is from their album 'Ohio.'"
Although the texture and mood of OtR's latest release, "Ohio", most closely resembles their "Good Dog Bad Dog" project, "Ohio" borrows the feel from all their early projects: "'Til We Have Faces", "Eve", and "Patience". Ironically, it least resembles their previous release "Films for Radio" with its more commercial--but sill excellent--slant.
There are twenty-one songs on this double album, but OtR fans need not fear that quantity has watered down the quality. Plenty of memorable tunes and immediately catchy songs are packaged into "Ohio." Most of all OtR fans will enjoy hearing songs that resemble material from the band's earliest days, "Ohio", "Suitcase" and "Show Me" for example. "How Long Have You Been Stoned" could have been from their "Films for Radio" project and is probably the catchest tune. Everyone will have their favorites.
I have bought OtR CDs as gifts for people, and they are never disappointed. "Good Dog Bad Dog" has been my standard, but "Ohio" is going to be the OtR project I give out for now on--and the two CD release is at a one CD price. Over the Rhine is back!
on December 16, 2003
We've got too much music nowadays. Like most of you I've got 400 or 500 or more cd's. When I do get something new I'll play it a few times and then it disappears into the population; there's always something new. Ohio has been a dramatic exception to this trend. I can't put this thing away. It's too catchy, breathless, non-derivative, original... I wish I had the words to say how good this project is. Over The Rhine were justified in making this a double album. They have so many ideas, so many styles of music - so much quality. I think the thing that impresses me the most is how I can't really say that this album sounds like anyone else. These guys are paving their own road. The lyrics are intelligent, the music is spare and yet lush, and completely evocative. And Karin's voice is perfect - bending and twisting, beautiful and effortless. If this came out in 1975 I believe it would sell millions of copies. Definitely their best work, Good Dog Bad Dog included. After over 50 plus plays I'm still hooked.
In 2001 OtR released "Film for Radios", in my opinion a great, adventurous album, which, unfortunately, sank commercially (30,000 copies sold, I read). Karen Bergquist and Linford Detweiler, the husband and wife team behind OtR, decided that the adventurous way was not the way to go, and instead came back with a more toned-down sound, reminiscent of the "Good Dog Bad Dog" album. I admit it's not my fave OtR sound, but "Ohio" has grown on me, after repeated listenings.
The big thing of course is that this is a double-album, 21 tracks (including one "hidden" track), 90+ min. By far, CD2 is my fave. Although CD1 has its moments, such as the current single "Show Me" and Karen's affectionate ode to Ohio on the title track, the best juice is on CD2. "Nobody Number One" and "Cruel and Pretty" are great, setting the table for the best tunes, "How Long" and "When You Say Love", the stand-out track of this ambitious album.
I saw OtR on the opening gig of their new tour, and the 5 piece band rocks greater than this album leads on, so if you have a chance to see them, a great evening is guaranteed.
It's now 5 years later, and now it's clear that "Ohio" is the crowning jewel in Over the Rhine's catalog. A monumental album, period. I have come to love and cherish this in the years since I wrote my initial review. Over the Rhine was invited to open up the brand new National City Pavilion in Cincinnati this month, and they played the "Ohio" album in sequence, what a delight that was. The songs on "Ohio" have aged very well. The "Films for Radio" album may be more adventurous but if you're going to buy only one Over the Rhine album, make it "Ohio".
on May 4, 2005
Well, I don't quite know what to say. This album blew me away, I guess. I mean, it sort of blew me softly until suddenly I find myself loving this band.
The first Over the Rhine song I ever heard was "I Radio Heaven." I liked it a lot, mostly because Karin Berquist doesn't sound like every other whispery indie-girl who's trying to convince you that inside, she's still five years old and kind of scared. Ms. Berquist's voice was strong and powerful. Later, I heard "Mary's Waltz," which almost made me cry, it's so beautiful. In my opinion, that's one of the best songs ever written. About a year later, I borrowed this album from my dad.
Well, there isn't a "Mary's Waltz" on this album. That doesn't stop it from being brilliant, however.
I listened to it over the course of about a week, while driving to Kansas and Nebraska with my family, then listened to the whole thing again driving back through... Ohio!
My favorite song on the album is probably "Jesus in New Orleans," though I really like "B.P.D." and "What I'll Remember Most" ("You were eighty percent angel, ten percent demon, the rest is hard to emplain..."). I also love "Cruel and Pretty" and "Nobody Number One." I didn't like "Ohio," the song, as much as other people apparently do - I just think Over the Rhine sound better when they're in a less downbeat mood.
I have to admit, when I first heard it, I thought te first disc was better than the second one, mostly just because they had those four great songs right at the beginning and I didn't think the beginning of the second disc was that great. Then I heard "Nobody Number One," and with repaeated listenings, the album sort of evened out into the great and glorious thing of beauty that it is.
I guess I should mention the fact that this album, along with "Musical Chairs" by Hootie and the Blowfish, reminds me irresistably of Neil Gaiman's "American Gods." It has that same feeling of darkness and light, with a heavier hand on the darkness but light coming through every now and then. This, by the way, is a very good thing. I'm a big fan of Neil Gaiman, and especially of that book.
So, the conclusion I draw is, listen to this album. Give it its fair chance to shine. I think you'll like it.
on March 6, 2006
If I had purchased either of these CD's as a single album for full price I would have been happy with the purchase. OTR has produced the rare double album that does, in fact, contain two complete CD's worth of quality material. It is hard to say which is my favorite. The first disk has the two best songs: B.D.P. (which Linford said in an interview stands for Borderline Personality Disorder) and Changes Come (the runaway winner) while the second CD achieves consistant overall level of excellence. Karin's voice can be sublime and haunting and OTR seems to embrace the songwriting craft with refreshingly poetic spirits. The title track is so visceral that I actually feel homesick for a place I have never been. Themes of a broken world (changes come, ohio), broken people (suitcase, she, Jesus in New Orleans) and immanent hope (changes come) tend to comprise the work's narrative arc.
The text accompanying this CD suggests that an alternate title, borrowed from an Anne Lamont book, was considered for this album: "A little kick-a** beauty before I die." I could not think of a better description of the spirit of this work.
on December 30, 2004
OTR is a wonderful band. this is mellow, back porch, kick back, put your feet up and watch the sun set kind of music. lyrically, is where OTR really shines. but they are serious musicians as well. most of their records are "mood" albums and your truly "feel" their music as opposed to just "listening" to it. they have a unique way of translating human emotion into a beautiful musical tapestry. and Karin's voice...what can you say about it. her voice alone is enough to make you buy anything they put out--the lyrics and the music are just bonus. if this sounds like your kind of music, you won't go wrong with this purchase.
on June 9, 2006
Anyone who likes the spare distilled beauty of artists like Texas, the Cowboy Junkies, or even Norah Jones, will love Over the Rhine. The music and production is well done and the melodies and lead vocals are outstanding. The songwriting is pretty good too - definitely better than average, with some stand outs. The title track goes beyond its words to creative an evocative sonic landscape. The double album idea may be a bit far reaching, in that they could have created a really strong album of regular length by editing some of the songs that were maybe not as good as the others. But that is my only comment near to a criticism. It can easily be argued that the double album gives you more time to spend in the sublime realm that is "Ohio".