The Kent Stage Presents:
Over The Rhine
175 East Main
Kent, OH, 44240
Watch & Listen
Over The Rhine
Over the Rhine
2017 Christmas Tour Thoughts
One December, not long after Over the Rhine began recording and touring, we were invited to perform some seasonal songs on a public radio station. So we worked up a few carols and traditional tunes. It actually felt really good and conjured up an unusual mix of feelings from childhood: innocence, loss, wonder, joy, sadness. I think we were surprised.
People must have tuned into the radio broadcast, because we began receiving inquiries as to whether we had recorded any of our Christmas songs. In December of 1996 – can it really be 20 years ago? – we recorded and released our first song cycle of some of the Christmas carols that still haunted us. We included a few original tunes and called our wintry mix The Darkest Night Of The Year. Folks began snatching up copies and seemed to agree that they hadn’t heard anything quite like it.
We began playing concerts around the Midwest every December and found that the rooms were usually packed full of people who had bundled in out of the cold. If you stepped outside during intermission, you could make ghosts with your breath in the crisp night air. And it was dark – oh so dark: a time of year with its own music.
A decade later, in 2006, we released our first full collection of original Christmas/holiday songs called Snow Angels. What is it about Christmas music and the undeniable gravitational pull it exerts on some songwriters? So many Christmas songs had already been written. I think we were genuinely curious about the ones that hadn’t yet been written.
We continued to tour every December and these special year-winding-down concerts began to feel like an annual tradition – gatherings of extended musical family, without whom, we’d be homeless.
And when we released our third holiday album of original songs, Blood Oranges In The Snow, in December of 2014, we were still at it.
On our 2017 tour, we will be performing as a trio, leaning into three-part harmonies and making an intimate but hopefully holy ruckus. It won’t be all Christmas music: we’ll certainly mix in tunes from many of our records along the way. But hopefully it’s still true; that you haven’t heard anything quite like it.
We hope you’ll join us,
With Karin close by
"I've always had a taste for traveling alone," Tift Merritt sings in the title track of her fifth album. This time around, she got to prove it, "calling the shots myself and letting myself go wherever I needed to go" at a point in time when she was a free agent without label or manager. But the song does also conclude that "Everybody here is traveling alone," a realization that places as much value on community as iconoclasm. And Merritt put together her "dream cast" of fellow travelers to play on Traveling Alone, which found its happy home at her new label, Yep Roc. The road less taken doesn't preclude good company.
The New Yorker has called Merritt "the bearer of a proud tradition of distaff country soul that reaches back to artists like Dusty Springfield and Bobbie Gentry," a standard upholding that got underway in earnest with Bramble Rose, the 2002 solo debut that put her on the Americana map forever. As her sophomore album, Tambourine, was followed by Another Country and See You on the Moon, Merritt found acclaim coming not just from critics and awards orgs but her own heroes, like Emmylou Harris, who marveled that Merritt "stood out like a diamond in a coal patch." Now a leading lady in her own right, Merritt is hardly one to hog the spotlight. She engages in dialogue with fellow artists of all disciplines on her public radio broadcast and podcast "The Spark With Tift Merritt," bringing in fellow sojourners ranging from Patty Griffin and Rosanne Cash to Rick Moody and Nick Hornby (who devoted a chapter to Merritt in his 31 Songs book).
For Traveling Alone, Merritt knew—and got—exactly the journeymen she wanted with her on this 11-track trip: legendary guitarist Marc Ribot, Calexico drummer John Convertino, steel player extraordinaire Eric Heywood, acclaimed jazz and rock multi-instrumentalist Rob Burger, and longtime cohort Jay Brown on bass. As captured by producer Tucker Martine (known for working with the Decemberists, and one of Paste magazine's "10 Best Producers of the Decade") and mixed by three-time Grammy-winning engineer Ryan Freeland, the sound is both spare and luxurious. "Maybe I was bored with bells and whistles and wanted to go without them. It might have been that I didn't have enough money for bells and whistles," she quips. "But once you get in that sweet spot where things feel real and right, you just want to burrow down in that feeling. Nothing to hide behind, no distractions, no sense trying to be everything to everybody. There's a beautiful economy of motion in that place." Who wouldn't want to tag along?