Over The Rhine

"It's a collection of songs that required some extra real estate," Linford Detweiler says of Over the Rhine's Meet Me At The Edge Of The World, the latest product of his prolific two-decade musical collaboration with longtime partner Karin Bergquist.

Indeed, the new two-CD set, recorded with producer Joe Henry and released on the band's own Great Speckled Dog label, marks something of a landmark in Over the Rhine's large and remarkably accomplished body of work, exploring some challenging new musical territory while featuring some of the duo's most compelling songs and performances to date.

The double album's 19 songs—18 original compositions plus a memorable reading of The Band's classic "It Makes No Difference"—are both introspective and expansive, embodying the same mix of lyrical eloquence, emotional nuance and melodic soulfulness that have already won Bergquist (vocals, acoustic guitar, tenor guitar) and Detweiler (vocals, acoustic guitar, keyboards) a passionate fan base and considerable critical acclaim.

Paste has praised Over the Rhine's "lovely, heartbreaking, and ultimately uplifting musical mosaic," while USA Today made note of the group's "mature, graceful and sad songs (and) intimate, soulful arrangements," which "showcase Bergquist's achingly beautiful voice." Newsday described the music as "aggressively beautiful, like those '60s protesters who confronted soldiers with flowers."

"There may be no more soothing voice in music than Karin Bergquist's," observed Entertainment Weekly. "She could be interpreting jazz standards, but fortunately she applies that balm to her and husband Linford Detweiler's beautifully languid originals, which invoke hard times and celebrate the survival of the least fit."

Meet Me At The Edge Of The World's blend of confident songcraft and creative restlessness is apparent on such vividly expressive new songs as "Meet Me at the Edge of the World," "Sacred Ground," "All Of It Was Music," "Favorite Time of Light," "Wildflower Bouquet" and the haunting "Don't Let The Bastards Get You Down," which features guest vocalist Aimee Mann.

The songs that comprise Meet Me At The Edge Of The World were largely inspired by the atmosphere of the couple's rural Ohio home of the past eight years: a ramshackle farmhouse built in 1833, amidst the rolling, tree-lined fields of rural Highland County.

"These songs all grew loosely out of the soil we live on," Detweiler explains. "We had always dreamed of having a piece of unpaved earth which would serve as our home base, just like many other American artists or writers that are immediately associated with a specific geographical place. We call our place Nowhere Farm: nowhere, or now here, depending on how you look at it."

"We realized when we moved out here that we didn't know the names of much of anything," Bergquist notes. "We began to learn, and once we had, the names of the trees and the weeds and the birds began slipping into our songs. When Linford's father, a birder all of his life, first saw the farm, he encouraged us to 'leave the edges wild.' That became an important metaphor for us on a number of different levels, and the line appears on this record in several places."

While the duo drew artistic inspiration from their home environment, they received financial support from their fans in bringing Meet Me At The Edge Of The World to fruition. Rather than use a conventional third-party crowd-funding site like Kickstarter, they appealed directly to their fans, via their website, for help in financing the recording. The fans responded enthusiastically, showing their support with contributions of between $15 (a simple pre-order with bonus tracks) and $5000 (for a private concert, and executive producer credit etc) in order to make the ambitious project a reality.

"It's actually divided into two short records, 35 minutes each, two distinct chapters," Bergquist explains. "A decade ago, we found ourselves releasing a double album called OHIO that became an important project for us and our audience. In neither case were we completely aware we were making a double album while we were making it. It had to be revealed.”

Meet Me At The Edge Of The World marks Over the Rhine's second collaboration (following 2011's The Long Surrender) with Grammy-winning producer Joe Henry, an iconoclastic singer-songwriter in his own right whose production resume also includes acclaimed albums with the likes of Billy Bragg, Elvis Costello, Solomon Burke, Bonnie Raitt, Allen Toussaint and Loudon Wainwright III.

"The records that Joe's been involved with all have a unique, funky, organic vibe. There’s something mysterious going on that is hard to explain. But they tend to tug at the soul,” Detweiler says.

Bergquist, Detweiler and Henry gathered a stellar musical cast that included drummer Jay Bellerose, guitarist/pedal steel player Eric Heywood, bassist Jennifer Condos, keyboardist Patrick Warren (Disc One) and guitarist Mark Goldenberg (Disc Two) plus a few notable guests (David Piltch, Van Dyke Parks and Aimee Mann) and cut all 19 of Meet Me At The Edge Of The World's songs in six days.

"It was all about capturing what was happening in the room," says Bergquist. "Everything on this record is recorded live, so you're hearing the sound of a band leaning in and conjuring something in real time."

Meet Me At The Edge Of The World also showcases the developing vocal chemistry that's become an increasingly prominent element of Over the Rhine's performances, as featured on such new numbers as "All Over Ohio" and "Earthbound Love Song."

"In the past, I've always been gun shy about singing, and would actually have a fair bit of physical pain whenever I tried to sing," Detweiler admits. "But after years of working together, Karin gently encouraged me to try singing through the pain to see if there was anything on the other side, and I think I finally learned how to relax. This is the first record where you can really hear us singing together. It feels a little bit like starting a new band."

Native Ohioans Detweiler and Bergquist launched Over the Rhine as a quartet in the spring of 1989, naming the ensemble after the historic, bohemian Cincinnati neighborhood Over-the-Rhine, where they lived and first wrote and recorded together. Their early demos and performances quickly struck a chord with listeners, and they already had a solid local following by the time they launched their recording career with a pair of well-received independently-released albums, Till We Have Faces (1991) and Patience (1992).

Over the next two decades, Over the Rhine continued to build a musically and emotionally potent catalogue, encompassing the studio albums Eve (1994), Good Dog Bad Dog (1996), Films For Radio (2001), Ohio (2003), Drunkard's Prayer (2005), The Trumpet Child (2007) and The Long Surrender (2011), the holiday-themed The Darkest Night of the Year (1996) and Snow Angels (2006), the live Changes Come (2004), and a series of limited-edition CDs featuring live, rare and unreleased material.

The fierce independent streak that has fueled Over the Rhine from the start asserted itself when Bergquist and Detweiler decided to release 2007's The Trumpet Child on their own Great Speckled Dog label (named after the couple's Great Dane, Elroy). The Long Surrender marked the band's first venture into fan-funded recording.

"We are blessed with an incredibly devoted audience who've assured us that they have invited our music into many of the significant milestones a human can experience," Detweiler states, adding, "People have told us that they fell in love, or walked down the aisle, or conceived, or went off to war, or buried loved ones, or gave birth to our music. And so forth. At the end of the day, what more can a songwriter ask for?"

Meet Me At The Edge Of The World's effortlessly engaging, timelessly resonant songs more than justify such loyalty, once again validating Over the Rhine's enduring musical mission.

"We see our catalog as our life's work," Bergquist concludes. "It's imperfect and broken, but we've also come to see our records as strangely beautiful and valid in their own way—much like life itself.”

Noah Gundersen

At the tender age of 24, Noah Gundersen is already a young veteran who recorded his
first album on his dad’s Tascam Studio 8 reel-to-reel home tape machine at 13.
Born in the tiny town of Centralia, WA—about midway between Portland and Seattle—
Gundersen has honed his craft through a series of albums, both solo (with his sister
Abby, an expert string player) and with their band The Courage. He’s already placed
songs on TV shows like Sons of Anarchy (the title track from his 2011 solo album
Family, “David” and “He Got Away,” a track he sang written by the show’s creator Kurt
Sutter and music supervisor Bob Thiele Jr.), Vampire Diaries (“Family”) and One Tree
Hill (“Middle of June” from his 2009 EP Saints and Liars).

His latest album, Ledges, self-produced and recorded at Pearl Jam guitarist Stone
Gossard’s Studio Litho in Seattle, represents the latest stop in a journey which began in
his strictly conservative, religious home growing up, where he was strictly forbidden to
listen to secular music. Instead he grew up listening to Bob Dylan’s gospel albums,
along with Christian artists such as Keith Green, Larry Norman and Rich Mullins.

“I’m not a religious person anymore, but I’ve learned that spiritual energy transcends
religion and that’s something I’ve attempted to incorporate into my music,” Noah
explains.

An impressive personal work, Ledges co-mingles the sensual and the sexual with the
spiritual, often using religious and biblical imagery like Leonard Cohen to plumb the
depths of everyday emotions and feelings. The album explores doubt and faith, sin and
redemption, mortality and transcendence in 11 songs that get underneath the skin and
cut to the heart.

From the acappella gospel chant that opens “Poor Man’s Son,” a song that channels
poverty’s effect on the soul and the Jackson Browne-like narrative of the autobiographical title track (“I take a little too much/Without giving back. I want to learn
how to love”) to the Don Henley-like metaphor of “Cigarettes,” comparing one bad habit
to a relationship that just can’t be ended even though we know it’s bad for us, Ledges is
a confession that boasts universal appeal.

“This is the first record where I finally got to a comfortable place in the studio,” he says of
the experience. “Something about Litho was very inspirational, offering a safe
environment to experiment and create. It’s not overly produced; we left a lot of the
mistakes in..”

The songs work on different levels, inspired both by a ruptured romance and a
questioning of dogma in all its forms.

“The spiritual element of music is something I’m very much drawn to and motivated by,”
says Gundersen. “Religious imagery was a large part of my upbringing. It’s still beautiful,
powerful and timeless. I believe in the elevation that music and art can bring to people,
but I’m still trying to define myself as an individual outside of structures or organized
religion. I’ve come to a place in my writing where I’m less focused on the outside forces
of spirituality and more on how it relates inwardly to my own life.”

To that end, his songs capture snapshots of events in his life, including an encounter
with a woman in another relationship (“Isaiah”), whose tattoo is inscribed with a biblical
passage that doubles as the song’s chorus (“Fear thou not/My right hand will hold you”).
“Poison Vine” tells the tale of a co-worker who succumbed to a drug overdose,
pondering the thin line between life and death, while “First Defeat” illuminates the feeling of the first heartbreak.

“Much of the album was written toward the end of a period of being single and reckless,”
he says. “I’ve lived a great deal compared to most people my own age. I’ve traveled the
country playing music, doing what I love for a living. But, in terms of emotional experience, I’ve swept a lot of things under the rug. I started asking questions to people I
respect about what it means to be a man and, in a larger sense, a decent human being.
This record is the culmination of that process.”

Ledges was also very much a family affair, with Noah joined by his sister Abby, who
conveys the wordless emotions through violin, cello and piano, and younger brother
Jonathan on drums.

“The chemistry Abby and I have is unlike any other I’ve experienced in music” he says,
pointing to the album closer, “Time Moves Quickly,” as a song she wrote the music for
and plays piano on. “She’s an essential part of what I do.”

And while major labels have come sniffing around, Noah is determined to maintain his
independence as a musician and artist. Having built up a following through touring and
social media, Gundersen is determined to maintain the kind of creative control that
makes Ledges such a powerful, intimate work.

“I’ve had some offers from major labels, but it’s not a direction that’s viable for me in
terms of a long-term career and forging a lifetime in music,” he says. “I want to give my
fans the music they’ve come to appreciate without going through any other filters.”
Ledges is about making that existential leap of faith, it’s about taking responsibility for
the choices you’ve made, with sometimes painful honesty. Noah Gundersen’s voice
comes through loud and clear.

“Writing ‘Ledges’ was a purifying process for me,” he says about the album’s epic title
track. “In three verses, I was able to sum up exactly where I was in life, with no real
answer, but a declaration of hope and uncertainty.”

“How long, how long should it take/For you to learn your lessons from all your mistakes,”
he sings in “Dying Now.”

On Ledges, Noah Gundersen goes from a boy to a man before our very ears. It’s a
journey well worth taking with him.

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Over The Rhine with Noah Gundersen

Friday, November 15 · Doors 7:00 PM / Show 8:00 PM at Aladdin Theater