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Slow down as you approach the gate, and have your change ready....
the Rhine - Three Albums In Six Months!
Last year I didn't follow up on an offer that could have ended up as one of the privileges of my life. Linford Detweiler from Over the Rhine asked me to send some possible liner notes for what was at the time an up and coming compilation. I was busy with overseas trips at the time and used that as an excuse. The real reason, apart from the fact that I am an idiot, was that I could not imagine coming up with words that would express the wonder of this band's music and what they mean to me and coming anywhere near literary enough to send to Linford! This band is so articulate in their music and their lyrics that it is hard to nail any kind of superlatives to express what they do and sing.
If I had tried to write such
notes, I would have gone back to a tent in England around 10.30 on a Thursday
evening when I first heard Over the Rhine and my life was changed forever!
The voice. The words. The song. I think it was "Paul and Virginia" from
their Til We Have Faces debut album, named after a Belfast man C.S.
Lewis's book. The album cover was a work of art, and their table at that
Greenbelt festival was also so crafted. I got the message early on.
This was music as art and literature. it was poetry, it was mind provoking,
In the past seven months
this band have released three albums and recorded a fourth. Okay, granted
that one of the albums is a compilation with only one extra track, and
another was a live album, but it is still staggeringly prolific in a world
where the release of albums is dependent on how the last one is doing,
tour schedules, what competition there is in the market etc., etc. That
new studio album is expected to be released in late August and I am hopeful
for a review of it on the web page before then but what about those other
will be only of value to fans for the extra track, "Last Night On Earth,"
which actually maps out the territory where Over the Rhine work out their
vocation, "where Elvis is King and Jesus is Lord." The rest is familiar,
and for the fan only a text for some fun debates about what should and
should not have been included. Something from every official album is here.
Like A Radio, from Til We Have Faces to Born from Drunkard's
Prayer. Everything is meticulous but when you hear "Ohio," "Suitcase"
and the aforementioned "Born," you can't help but think that this is a
band who started off great and then matured into something far greater
still. I am unaware of many bands that have such a consistently
If you are wanting to get a flavour, then this covers every album and style from the Ric Hordinski guitar sonics of the early days to the more home down pedal steels and organic charm of recent days. My advice though is put the money towards the full back catalogue. You really do need everything.
Anyone who regularly visits this web page will be aware of the recurring bee in my bonnet that Christmas is for all the year round and we have made a spiritual health damaging heresy to confine it to a few weeks in December. The depth of theological energy that infuses the poetry of the nativity should not be left in the attic in boxes. Snow Angels is a Christmas album for all the year round. Yes, you can smell the chestnuts roasting, see the snow on the trees as you peer through the curtains from your chair beside the feel of the fire blazing in the hearth as you listen to Linford at the piano and Karin leaning against it singing as beautifully as only Karin does. They might even have Santa hats on, but I am not sure. Whatever, this music conjures the season but avoids the over familiarized blanding out of old carols. Somehow they have written songs that can house the images of winter and proverbs of faith without confining them to either. There is a prayer for a new redemption song, "Won't you help us please/Help us just to sing along/A new redemption song and the "Forgiveness from the sky" that is falling in "Darlin' (Christmas Is Coming)." We end up in "Bethlehem in White Horse" and stay there in "Little Town," which starts as the traditional carol should but then a re-write has us walking through the dark streets of the war torn modern day city finishing with a medley of Jesus best bits, "Put up your swords forever/Forgive your enemies/Love your neighbor as yourself/Let your little children come to me."
Let your little children
come to me. "Here It Is" perfectly highlights this band's ability to make
the transcendent breath in the dirt and straw of this world which
makes them the most
Live From Nowhere VOL 2
Over The Rhine have always
managed some kind of record deal where they can release their own stuff
between albums. In 2005 they came up with a great new tradition of releasing
a live album of recordings from their by new annual Christmas tour. This
is the second, and I personally can't wait for volume 3 next March. Before
all that, what about Vol 2? Well, three of their best songs in the
last few years are here, "Long Lost Brother," "Jesus and New Orleans,"
and "I Want You To be My Love." Most notable here though are the rarities;
the cover versions. Another version of "Fever"--this time a little less
lazy and loungy than last year's. I wonder if this song can reappear on
every volume! "Failed Christian" sits uncomfortably, as Linford explains
in his notes notes on the project. This is a song by Portstewart's Henry
McCullough, one time cohort of Beatle Paul McCartney. Detweiler's notes
on the album suggest some uncertainty about including a song that seems
to go against the spiritual grain of Over the Rhine. It's a slight
incongruity is redeemed, however, in
Steve Stockman is the Presbyterian
Chaplain at Queens University, Belfast, Ireland, where he lives in community
with 88 students. He has written two books Walk On; The Spiritual
Journey of U2 which he is currently updating and The Rock Cries Out; Discovering
Eternal Truth in Unlikely Music. He dabbles in poetry and songwriting and
he has a weekly radio show on BBC Radio Ulster (listen anytime of day or
night @ www.bbc.co.uk/ni/religion/rhythmandsoul). He has his own web page--Rhythms
of Redemption at http://stocki.ni.org . He also tries to spend some time
with his wife Janice and daughters Caitlin and Jasmine.