Over the Rhine celebrates 30 years of music with 'Love & Revelation'

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Rating: 7.5/10

It's been four years since Over the Rhine, the husband and wife duo of Linford Detweiler and Karin Bergquist, released new music, 2014's Blood Oranges in the Snow, but they haven't been idle in that time. In addition to maintaining a vigorous touring schedule, the duo opened their Ohio farm up to a “musical family reunion” that has become the Nowhere Else Festival, now in its fourth year, faced personal losses among family and friends, and are celebrating their 30th year of making music together in 2019. All of these experiences come together on their new album, Love & Revelation, releasing March 15, which ruminates on how we process grief, but also how we find the rays of light that let us persevere.

As has been the case with all of Over the Rhine's releases, it's Bergquist's voice that is the biggest sell here. While ably handling country, Americana, soul, and rock on Love & Revelation, Bergquist is at her best when she unleashes her smoky jazz side, which she does to perfection on the album's title track and lead single. It's one of the most lyrically strong tracks on the album as well, with a verse about the conscripting of religion to condone violence. Sounding like a lounge singer in an old Bogart film, Bergquist purrs “stop confiscating Jesus, Jesus, who believes this? They'd arm him to the teeth, that's not my belief...”

The theme of religion comes up in a gentler sense on the album's lyrical closer, “May God Love You (Like You've Never Been Loved).” It's a ready-made encore song that is very Irish in its structure, at times reminding of the Clancy Brothers' classic “The Parting Glass.” Over a single acoustic guitar, Bergquist asks “is it sacrilegious dancing, in light of all we've lost? Open and woundable, good evening I'm your host...” Later, she assures listeners “we're not curable, but we're treatable and that's why I still sing.” This song is followed by the album's instrumental closer, “An American in Belfast” that is so close in structure to the previous that it could almost be one song, further driving home the Celtic connections.

While Over the Rhine finds peace in their loss on “May God Love You”, other songs on the album show more of the struggle. Album opener “Los Lunas” finds the narrator driving away from a situation that couldn't be repaired, moaning “neither one of us wanted this to end this way, but one of us had to be wrong.” In later verses, she alternates between “I can fix anything except for me” or “you.” “Broken Angels” is a tribute to everyone who has survived loss “in the crawlspace under Heaven, in the landscape of a wounded heart.”

Another highlight track is “Betting on the Muse.” A rare dual lead vocal duet from Bergquist and Detweiler, whose “high and lonesome” tone fits into Bergquist's more husky range with a snugness that only a couple who has been harmonizing for 30 years can achieve. Combining both the themes of loss and love that make up the album's title, it alternates lyrics like “you've got to get taken for everything to have anything to give” with “the fact that you still make you laugh is what I'm most proud of.”

30 years on, Over the Rhine has found a comfortable niche in the vast wilderness of Americana music. Nothing on Love & Revelation forges new ground for the band, but there's something appealing about a group with a successful formula doing their thing very well. It's like slipping into a pair of well-worn jeans. There's a comfort factor in just sitting back and letting the vocals wash over you, losing yourself in the watercolor landscape of Detweiler and Bergquist's lyrics.

Over the Rhine are hitting the road in support of Love & Revelation, including an album release show in Wilmington. Here are dates through April. You can find a full slate of tour dates here.

Mar. 15- Murphy Theater- Wilmington, OH- Album Release Show
Mar. 28- Kessler Theater- Dallas, TX
Mar. 29- The Heights- Houston, TX
Mar. 31- New Story Festival- Austin, TX
Apr. 7- Mountain Stage- Athens, OH
Apr. 11- Redstone Room- Davenport, IA
Apr. 12- Pantages Theatre- Minneapolis, MN
Apr. 13- Barrymore Theatre- Madison, WI
Apr. 18- City Winery- Washington, DC
Apr. 19- City Winery- New York, NY
Apr. 20- Uptown! At the Knauer Theater- West Chester, PA
Apr. 26- Visulite, Theatre- Charlotte, NC
Apr. 27- City Winery- Atlanta, GA
Apr. 28- City Winery- Nashville, TN
Apr. 29- Woodsongs at The Lyric Theater- Lexington, KY