OTR Meet Me At The End Of The WorldGetting back to nature, OtR shine a spotlight on their comfortable country side.

Meet Me at the Edge of the World
Artist: Over the Rhine 
Label: Great Speckled Dog
Time: 19 Tracks / 70 minutes

What a difference eight years makes. When I first properly caught up with Over the Rhine, it was because I fell in love with 2005's Drunkard's Prayer. The husband and wife duo had been at the point of splitting up, but spent a week at the table, drinking wine and discussing their relationship. That tear-inducing album documents the process, and drips raw with emotion. It remains one of my top ten releases of the decade.

Whereas that release was made at the kitchen table and sounds written at the piano, this one was inspired by the nature on their pre-civil war farm and sounds written on guitars as they sit among the trees. More to the point, it feels very comfortable and all seems well. Even the sadness of missing Detweiler's late father is turned to the honourable memory of his words as he advised "leave the edges wild" when tending the farm, a phrase that finds it way into "Against the Grain".

Those who get the band's e-letters know that you have to read a page or two of Linford Detweiler's description of the trees, (up to 33 species of) birds and general wildlife of the farm before you get to what is happening with their music, so it is entirely natural (no pun intended) that this release reflects the calm, stately beauty of the trees around their farm.

Like those trees, this is very much a grower. For the first few listens, I thought that I would have to give an OtR disc less than four tocks for the first time. Very few tracks stood out and something seemed to be missing. But this is a complete disc that needs to be taken as a whole – and what a beautiful whole.

More accurately, even though it could all fit on one, it is a two-disc set. The first, decorated with a small sun symbol is sub-titled Sacred Ground, and the second, with a crescent moon symbol, is Blue Jean Sky. I can find no discernible difference in theme or mood, but having a double disc set means that each ends before you want it to, leaving you hungry for more.

However, there is something missing: Linford Detweiler's piano and Karen Bergquist's jazzy inflections. I can only count some 50 seconds of piano, featured on one of the two instrumentals that act as variation reprises on the tracks that they follow. Detweiler has a poignant touch at the keyboard that ratchets up the emotion, while Bergquist's jazzy approach does the same. Plainly, this album is too happy and contented for that, but the omission is felt nonetheless.

When the jazz and blues influences are removed, this strummed set is highly country-based, swathed lightly in pedal steel, wispy percussion and space. So "All of It was Music," about how the music spills out of them like floodwaters over a plain, is purest Over the Rhine.

There are a few tracks that stand out above the evenly-spread high standard throughout. "Don't Let the Bastards Get You Down," with harmonies by Aimee Mann, and an ethereal wordless vocal riff, is among the best. The two instrumentals are way too short at around a minute each, again leaving the listener hungry for more, while "Favorite Time of Light," with accordion by Van Dyke Parks, and "Blue Jean Sky" are simply perfectly-honed complete songs.

This album beautifully complements the rest of their catalogue. They have come home.


Derek Walker


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