It would not be news or a surprise to any regular Soul Surmise readers to know that having Over The Rhine play in Fitzroy in March 2017 was a highlight of my life. We were just a few weeks into Trump’s America at that point. They were Americans on tour of Europe. The questions as to “how on earth” can only have added to their gloom. They spoke of the need for songs to see us through and their gratitude for such.
Love and Revolution is an album of loss and break up. It’s nothing new for Over the Rhine who have been giving us beautiful pieces of heartache for thirty years, this very year. I remember at the funeral of our dear friend Lindsay Emerson how What I’ll Remember Most and Ohio somehow caused even more tears but with also threw us little nuggets of catharsis. When my own mother died I sought solace and soothing in the songs of Over The Rhine.
This collection seems to have been written in an intensity of loss. The lead-off tracks, Los Lunas and Given Road are saddest blue. When on Broken Angels, four songs in, Karin sings…
“I want to take a break from heartache
Drive away from all the tears I’ve cried
I’m a wasteland down inside
In the crawlspace under heaven
In the landscape of a wounded heart
I don’t know where to start”
… she’s not escaping anywhere soon on this record.
Not that there isn’t hope as well as Love and Revelation on here. This verse from Let You Down is trademark Over The Rhine wonderful:
“If grief is love without a place to go
Well then I've been there, you’re not alone
And if a song is worth a thousand prayers
We'll sing 'til angels come carry you and all your cares”
The title track, stolen from the words by which their friend and most recent producer Joe Henry, not available this time, signs his letters and emails calls us to live something of kindness and grace in such a melancholy world:
“Baby, it can't wait
Make a little space
Pay a little time
Baby, just be kind
Make a stronger case for it
Extend a little grace
Return, delete, backspace
Do it face to face
And call it…
Love and Revelation
You and me and inspiration.”
Surely though all of this loss and heartache and disappointment is about the new landscape across Berquist and Detweiler’s beloved America. Songs to help us through. It also fits those of us mourning Brexit and its post vote chaos too. On the final song that has a lyric on the record they sing:
There is no land of promise here
There’s only wilderness
You may not recognize this place
You live here nonetheless
That is how so many of my American friends are feeling in Trump’s America and I am feeling about Brexit! There are many mourning the loss of values and dreams they hold dear.
The title of that last song and the last words on the album say a lot about why I love Over The Rhine. It is not their bleakness that intoxicates me. Their realism is a vital ingredient but its their hopefulness, like scattered benedictions, that I love the most - “May God love you like you’ve never been loved.”
It is almost a throwaway line, like a feather but a feather fluttering with the weight of gold. Which is a great description of Over The Rhine in general and this record in particular. Top players on Love and Revelation add their different hues but the entire album floats on gentle acoustic strums and tinkling piano. As always Karin’s voice is angelic across the top and on Love and Revelation the duets with Linford, Let You Down and Betting On The Muse, are particularly strong.
I should mention the instrumental at the end. An American In Belfast suggests I should be particularly thrilled. I am. Th story, as I see it, is that when Karin and Linford played Fitzroy in Match 2017 they had just cancelled two gigs in the Netherlands because of coughs and lost voices. That meant that, instead of me touring them round CS Lewis and Van Morrison sites, they were prisoners in their Dukes Hotel bedroom on University Street. Valuable idle time it seems for Linford to find a tune on his guitar.
30 years. I have been a fan for 27 of them, always thrilled when a new record comes along. It’s been five years since their last studio record. As always… so worth the wait!