There is something about OTR performing live that is very special, very electric.

Artist: Over The Rhine
Label: Great Speckled Dog
Release Date: December 16, 2015
Duration: 2 discs, 20 tracks, 1:30:34

A decade or so back I was fortunate to walk into an outdoor venue at dusk to witness one of my top ten all time concerts with Over The Rhine (OTR) playing to a standing-room-only crowd. Always having a surprise in store for the audience, that evening they included a cover of The Pretenders "Ohio" and rocked it well. For those who have not had the privilege of experiencing OTR live, their performance and set list always exhibit the full range of the human experience. This is very present in Live From NoWhere~Barn Raising Concerts, the fifth in the Live From Nowhere series. The Barn Raising Concerts were produced to assist in building a concert hall in an aging barn on the farm owned by the co-founders and leaders of OTR, Karin Bergquist and Linford Detweiler.

The two album, 20-song collection is full of energy. Sometimes mellow, sometimes kicking, the emotion runs high in music and lyrics throughout. Well engineered, this live album has little fan interference in the recording with all songs presented in a pure and bright light. This is a great emotionally clad mix. Throughout the musicianship is crisp and sharp. Bergquist’s vocals shine, all the more with great backing vocals.

The stage is set with “Meet Me At The End Of The World” which slowly builds the album’s passion. “Cuyahoga” (not the REM song) is an acoustic instrumental providing a great lead into “Gonna Let My Soul Catch My Body” picking up-tempo with the Bergquist’s sultry vocals. “Suitcase” follows showing sadness and longing, with great guitar / vocal interplay.

Amid slower, country-like ballads, “All I Need Is Everything” is upbeat and powerful. A soft but strong piano accompanied by acoustic guitar blend to give entry to the ever-beautiful “Born”. The vocals are second only to the piano in giving this song the true emotional edge it shines with. In “Poughkeepsie“ Bergquist’s vocal range soars giving something of American heritage to her sound.

Taking a page from their past, “Baby If This Is Nowhere” is a low hanging, sultry rocker accented by a wandering and wavering loose and raunchy lead guitar. Detweiler’s piano sets the pace and sentiment coloring “I Want You To Be My Love”, “Trouble” with its bold and sensuous vocals, and “All My Favorite People”, soft and sweet. “The Laugh Of Recognition” again picks up the pace giving way to the slow, hot and moving “Cruel And Pretty”. The surprise cover in this edition of Live From Nowhere is Neal Young’s “Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere” staying true to the original musically and in spirit being both full and loose.

There is something about OTR performing live that is very special, very electric. Something comes out of their performance that can never be replicated in a studio recording.


Scott S Mertens