Otr EdgeA more domesticated and countrified Over The Rhine still keep it wild at the edges....

Meet Me at The Edge of The World
Over the Rhine
a Great Speckled Dog recording
2 discs, 18 tracks / 70 minutes

Sounding more introspective and decidedly more country than ever before, Over the Rhine (with Karin Bergquist and Linford Detweiler at the core, as always) brings us onto the front porch of their Nowhere Farm, where birds sing and the edges grow wild. It's that concept of 'letting the edges grow wild' that becomes the recurring theme, the mantra of the two-disc project.

Titled Sacred Ground and Blue Jean Sky respectively, disc 1 and disc 2 are roughly 35 minutes each. The two CDs are like chapters of a book that can be read in any order you like – the packaging cleverly displays these sub-titles to the overall project as reflections of one another, like a reflection in a pool of water. The themes of home, family and love are celebrated all over Meet Me at The Edge of The World, sometimes the love is between a man and a woman, like in "Earthbound Love Song" or "All Over Ohio" ('...I still get shivers when I hear you singin' down the hall / I'm gonna' kiss you all over Ohio...') and sometimes it's simply the love of life, music, and the Nowhere Farm, like in "Called Home" ('...leave behind your Sunday best / You know we couldn't care less / out here we've learned to leave the edges wild...').

There's an intimacy about these tracks, and a definite sense of most of it being done 'live' in a relaxed setting. Occasionally, you'll hear a comment or two at the beginning or end of a song, or a stray pluck of guitar string (keeping it wild at the edges). The tone is laid back, quiet, mostly acoustic (but not totally). The presence of some pedal steel by Eric Heywood lends to the slightly country feel of this album, although "Baby If This is Nowhere" has a nice bluesy feel to it.

The lyrics are, of course, poetic and full of imagery, full of allusions to life, death, God, love, trees, birds and spirit – the kind of words that paint a picture, even though you might not be exactly sure what it's a picture of... not meant for close inspection – keep the edges wild.

Karin's vocals are typically seductive, stirring, and soulful – with subtle phrasing that's nothing less than astounding. Linford, by contrast, has a refreshingly forthright vocal style - inviting and unpretentious and a delight to listen to on "All Over Ohio," and on the tracks where he trades lines with Karin. Where Karin can somehow wring three syllables out of a word like 'tree,' Linford will sing 'tree' as if he was the one who planted it. When Linford becomes a partner in harmony with Karin his voice becomes the perfect compliment – taking nothing away but adding a blend that must be the result of thousands of performances together.

Another version of Linford's 'voice' is heard on the two instrumental tracks - "Cuyahoga" and "The Birds of Nowhere Farm." The first, a slow-paced pedal-steel drenched drums, guitar and bass vignette, the second being a piano-driven ballad with just the right touch of acoustic guitar delineating the melody. Both of the short instrumental are on the Blue Jean Sky disc.

Meet Me At the Edge of The World is unmistakably Over the Rhine, full of wistful melodies, poetic lyrics and of course the signature vocals of Karin Bergquist – but it's also the most pastoral and domesticated Over the Rhine yet. The musical direction continues away from pop and jazz and more toward country. There were actually moments when the musical fit was so comfortable that I wondered if I had heard the song before. Whether or not this is a plus or a minus for you probably depends on how much you like country music.

Of course, these are people that like to keep the edges wild...

Bert Saraco


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