If you know me well, I have likely, rather evangelistically, worked to convert you to (or make sure you already are) a fan of Over the Rhine (Linford Detweiler and Karin Bergquist). If you know me really well, you’ve probably had to bear my dissertation-related talk about them. They are easily in the top top top of any music-related “favorites” list. (Live show: Christmas Show at the Taft in Cincinnati, 2009; Album: “Drunkard’s Prayer”; Christmas album: “Snow Angels”; Song: okay, I can’t pick just one. You get the idea.)
At any rate, I’ve basically lost count of how many times I’ve seen them perform live, though I’m guessing by now it’s easily 20. I’m headed in just a bit towards St. Louis where I get to share the live Over the Rhine experience with a dear seminary friend. My second favorite thing after seeing Over the Rhine live, is taking someone to see them play for the first time.
One of the things, if I could name it, that I love most about their music is their ability to capture melancholy, to capture doubt so keenly, without never losing complete grip of hope.
This is what Linford has to say about why they do what they do:
There is a beautiful passage of scripture that made an impact on me as a child that I have never forgotten. Jesus said that if you help someone in need, someone hungry or naked or thirsty or imprisoned, if you are able to be present with them and soothe them in some way, it’s the same as if God was hungry or naked or thirsty or imprisoned and you found a way to help God. There is so much need in this beautiful broken world it can be overwhelming. . . . [W]e have watched people invite our music to be part of the big moments of their lives . . . . Unfortunately, big moments also occur during seasons when it feels like everything is going horribly wrong. We all need music during those dark times too – I know I do too. It’s always humbling and amazing to learn that our music can be present in those too-difficult-too-imagine times. In some small way, through our music, it feels like we get to be present too, even when that is physically impossible. We get to be there in spirit. (Letter, 4/23/10)
Here are two favorites:
I said the road is my redeemer
I never know just what on earth I’ll find
In the faces of a stranger
In the dark and weary corners of a mind.
All my friends are part saint and part sinner
We lean on each other
Try to rise above
We’re not afraid to admit we’re all still beginners
We’re all late bloomers
When it comes to love
This quote, from a 2007 letter is as appropriate for our current time as it ever was:
In America, in recent years, it sometimes seems like many folks are becoming increasingly entrenched in their political camps. Certain religious affiliations are becoming increasingly rigid. When groups of people insist on surrounding themselves almost exclusively with others most like themselves, real conversation can be hard to come by. (Conversation that celebrates the reality that since people have the ability to see things very differently, maybe we can actually learn from each other, be surprised.) (Letter, March 2007)