Show Review: OVER THE RHINE at Red Clay Theatre – Duluth, GA – 8/24
Long before She & Him or the Civil Wars came along with their adorable twee alt-folk duets, Over the Rhine were showing the world what lush notes could come out of a working musical marriage. Linford Detweiler and Karin Bergquist have been weaving tales and tunes since 1989. For their 13th studio album, a lush full folk two-disc record titled Meet Me at the Edge of the World, they sound like they are at the top of their game. On Saturday, August 24th, a sold-out crowd at Duluth’s Red Clay Theatre, Eddie Owen’s (of Eddie’s Attic fame) lovely new venue, was treated to some samples, as well as some classic fan favorites.
As the two strummed on their respective acoustic guitars for opener “The Laugh of Recognition,” the evidence of Detweiler and Bergquist being so in tune with each other shone with each sweet and pure chord. “Sacred Ground,” from the new album, followed, adding their entwined vocals to the deep and dark folk inspired by the coal mining towns of Ohio, creeping and crawling out of the dusty shadows. Introducing the song, Karin quipped that the album became a double record when they decided they “didn’t want to fight over whose songs were on the record.”
Humor and compromise prevail in the love of Over the Rhine. As Karin wrapped up the ode to vintage country “Earthbound Love Song,” with the lines, “We need a love like Johnny/Johnny and June/Some questions can’t be answered/Like who’s gonna bury who,” she remarked, “It takes on a different meaning when you are a touring married couple.”
The rest of the night was peppered with some gloriously intimate renditions of songs from the new record, a love song to the couple’s pre-Civil War home, Nowhere (or Now Here) Farm, tinged with the “coal dust” of their home state. After Linford’s father advised them to “let the edges [of the farm] grow wild,” Over the Rhine took the words to heart and let it take root in Meet Me at the Edge of the World, with the line even popping up in “Called Home,” which the two perform as one inseparable unit, creating a marvelous unified sound, just the two of them like an isolated island sheltered from the rest of the world.
While country-flecked folk prevails in much of Over the Rhine’s music, a myriad of other genres shine through, like “There’s A Bluebird In My Heart,” a classic-sounding standard-to-be that easily match any of the Gershwins or Porters. Karin’s voice croons in a deliriously smoky and jazzy fashion, transporting the audience to a small underground 1920s club full of well-heeled gents and dames sipping on gin and bourbon.
Then there is “The King Knows How,” with its thudding chords steady and driving as percussion. Karin’s vocals are at their sultry and sexy best, strong-voiced and strong-willed. Even without the deep ‘n’ stormy gospel voices that accompany Karin on the record, the thunderous vibes still rumble beneath the song’s steady strummed chords, whacked out by Linford like a driving rain.
The duo wrapped up the set with a few fan-favorites, including “All I Need is Everything” and “Drunkard’s Prayer,” before finishing with a gorgeous tear-jerking rendition of the tender “It Makes No Difference,” by The Band. Thanks to a late-night jam session on this year’s Cayamo cruise, inspired by the loss of the great Levon Helm, Karin and Linford found themselves playing along to this song with a mixture of the other musicians on the ship, and chose to include it on the new record.
Over the Rhine will be returning soon to Georgia with a Christmastime show coming to the Variety Playhouse on December 14, complete with full band and other goodies. Meet Me at the Edge of the World was released on September 3rd, via the band’s own label, Great Speckled Dog, named for their Great Dane, Elroy.
– Leila Regan-Porter