(Lindford Detweiler pointed out on Facebook that it is 10 years today since this gem of a record came out... what he called 'our let's stay together album'. How blessed we all have been that those guys made it through this difficult period in their marriage. Re-investigate. Here is my review at the time...)
That Drunkard’s Prayer is a slow burn smouldering beautiful thing you can take as read; it is Over The Rhine for goodness sake. Here they keep with the organic nature of the utterly classic Ohio album and also hanker back to the stripped back, do it in your living room, sound of Good Dog Bad Dog. And there are the usual tasteful traits; wonderful long lists of rhyming, depth charge one liners, on piano framed melodies and Karin’s sensually spiritual voice.
Where this album takes it a cut above the rest is the raw honesty of its story and content. In November 2003 Linford and Karin, the married couple that is Over the Rhine, took themselves off the road. The winter tour had begun well but as the muse fused in the traditionally perfect way, their relationship was in tatters. To cancel dates was brave, to admit to the reason was vulnerability not common in the industry. Their time of sabbatical and refuge was painful and, though at times it was far from certain, it ultimately brought healing. They explain opening a bottle of wine and talking to there was nothing left to say. The songs on this album are the exorcism of heir marriage’s fracture and the mending. At times the tender and fresh scars illicit tears but then always break into a smile as we see that we are walking on the fragile sacred space of recent salvation. It is in the template of Dylan’s Blood On The Tracks, a song cycle of break up but here we get a twist in the tale; redemption. Over the Rhine have always had a Christian spirituality. Here the songs are not so explicit but the implicit sum of the parts is redemption.
Little Did I Know is for me the centre piece. It tugs so hard at your heart that you’re waiting for something to burst from your chest. Linford’s jazz piano and Karin beautiful piece of heartache, “Little did I know that I almost let you go/Until I caught a glimpse of life without you…” Heart feelings and naked souls have maybe never been captured in song like these testimonies of love wrestling to hold on the for better or worse. Love is joyful in the for better but love is proved in the for the worse and these songs are proof of love resurrected and vows fought for. The other option was never the designer’s intention. On Spark the soul searching and the need for personal restoration to restore the relationship is a battle with fear which also turns up on Born. On Spark “Obsessions with self-preservation/Faded when I threw my fear away” before the lesson is preached, “You either lose your fear/Or spend your life with one foot in the grave".
On Born there is conclusion and the new beginning that is another recurring theme:
“We've seen the landfill rainbow
We've seen the junkyard of love
Baby it's no place for you and me
I was born to laugh
I learned to laugh through my tears
I was born to love
I'm gonna learn to love without fear”
To live through the tears and learn to laugh is brave in itself, to turn it into an album is the audacity that only Over The Rhine would wish to offer or have the ability to achieve. The fans who were invited to pray simply that they’d work it out are now handed the lavish grace of answered prayer and this luscious fruit from the orchard besides!