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TBTS Reviews: Over The Rhine – The Long Surrender

February 20, 2011

If the sign of a good album is for it to be well produced, but seem free of production, then this is one very good album. Raw, beautiful and as natural sounding as records get these days, The Long Surrender (Great Speckled Dog) is something real. You hear fingers on strings, breath, and the truth of the notion that what you are hearing is actual people playing actual instruments. Often creating sounds both warm and haunting, Over the Rhine continues to evolve and grow, even after 20 years of music. Not unlike some of their other releases, this one just keeps getting better and better with each listen.

Karin Bergquist and Linford Detweiler spend most of their off time at the Ohio farm they call home, communing with nature and relishing the peace afforded them in this chosen place of sanctuary. The couple writes most of their music in this environment, and the wild aspects of such a location tend to follow words and notes like hungry strays would follow the scent of a roast.  Maybe not in the manner most people would expect, but that is just one of the ways this Cincinnati duo surprises, entertains, comforts and consoles their fiercely loyal fan base. A base that funded The Long Surrender, thereby accounting for the long list of donors in the second booklet included with the CD. It’s not too much of a stretch to think any fan would love to be mentioned in their favorite band’s liner notes. So as a thank you to those that helped alleviate the financial strain of recording, each and every one of them is listed.

As the career of Over the Rhine progresses, more and more jazz influences take hold. The blend of those influences with their version of the americana singer/songwriter style creates a most alluring vision, captured on Surrender full essence intact by producer Joe Henry. With that in mind, it’s not too much of a stretch to look at this disc as a mate to OTR’s 2004 masterpiece Drunkard’s Prayer (which I highly recommend as well). Somehow delving even further into melancholy and regret, this side of the coin is darker, from being buried that much deeper in the long shadows of a late afternoon sun. Thankfully, hope is not forsaken. The closing verse from their cover of fellow Cincinnati resident Kim Taylor‘s “Days Like This” sums it up nicely: “Days like this, you think about the ones that love you. Days like this, have you ever seen the sky, it’s such a clear blue.”

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