Wednesday, December 13, 2006

their songs are poems if there was music that i could eat, that i could inhale, that i could ingest into my very being, chewing on it and swallowing it deep into me, this would be it: over the rhine. i know, i know, i can get carried away with praise (see the post on derek jeter), but i am not fooling around here. there are many musicians out there, most of them NOT on your FM dials, who are artists. and among that group, their are a few who are absolutely exceptional at doing what they do. over the rhine fit into that category. linford and karin aren't going to hook you with tricks and gimmicks, but will woo you with words and music put together in ways that are so simple and so profound and so magical and so...perfect.
shannon and i got to go see them at the theater of living arts on south street in philadelphia on friday night (sorry its been so long since i've posted--advent is kind of a busy time for those of us who work in the Church). we didn't clap to the beat or dance or sing along. we barely dared to tap a toe. because we were scared of missing an ounce of what was being so freely given from the stage. i sat there captivated. it was jazz and country. it was soul. it was blues. it was new orleans and the far east. it was nashville and the long straight highways of ohio. it was beautiful and yet it was honest. it was breathtakingly real. as one reveiwer wrote a couple of years ago, their songs are poems. they don't sing sunshiney pop songs. they do sing about grace, but only after singing about why we need it in the first place. karin sang of childhood dreams and broken relationships and failure. but she also sang of redemption and hope and a white horse and a tumpet player at the end of it all. and all the time she sings, linford just plays that piano, looking up at his wife and smiling, knowingly. like they are the holders of a secret they want to tell us, but they will tell us in their way in their time. she will tell it, but he will provide the soundtrack. and the secret is something like this (but it can only really be told in the music): there is death. there is darkness. there is shadow. there is pain. there is brokenness and grief and really long nights and a kind of cold sweat you just can't shake. but there is also hope. there is birth. there is light. there is morning. there are tears of laughter. there is sex and dancing and a kind of connection that we haven't even fully felt yet. no matter how big the mess, the truth is, (shh, don't say it too loud), this is not goodbye. later on, well, you'll see...
so, needless to say, seeing over the rhine, for me, is a spiritual journey. it is a kind of hostel. i feel like it is a place to stop and rest. the sheets are dirty, and there are all kinds of characters around. and believe, not all of them look friendly. there is a kind of holy fear, isn't there? but, nonetheless, it is a place to rest. to remember where we've been, and to be inspired about where we might go. the Spirit is there, and she breathes on me. again. and i feel warm and alive and ready and reborn and rested and, well, i feel like this was how i was supposed to be when i was made. and if music can do that, i want more. one of the songs they sang friday said, "we don't want to waste your time with music you don't need." thank you. because i certainly needed this.
greg.
ps. you can check them out at over the rhine.com. or, you can comment about this post, and we will have a fun and energized conversation about otr. their recordings. their beginnings. their best/worst album. their best/worst songs. what you do/don't like about them. whatever. and if you haven't heard of them - please tell me. i will consider going out and buying an album for you. it's got nothing to do with me - i just want to share the crumbs from the master's table with you.

9 comments:

Mary said...

I skipped class, drove two hours to get there and then 4 hours to get back in a blizzardly bliss along with getting horribly car sick to the point of dropping me off in a couple ditches along the way, all to see over the rhine. and it was worth every second. without a doubt, one of the best concerts i have ever been too. I'd like to to take this moment to thank my brother for opening my eyes to over the rhine at such a young age. thank you thank you my angel.

monica said...

oyes, yes and YES. love them. i can only say i have been to 2 concerts, but thats pretty good for living a continent and an ocean away from OTR. i always say that their best album is which ever one just came out, because they never settle, they keep on working on getting it right. but i have to love Ohio since they made a state that my love is from come alive in a new way. i have driven the Cinci to Cleveland road so much that too know Ohio like the back of my hand. and when we had a miscarriage in 2001, i really think "ride on the backs of the angels" got us through that dark grief. i knew how deep in depression we were by how many times a day we played that album. cheaper than prozac and healthier than alcohol. and let this blog be the place where i declare it out loud- at my funeral i want "born" played at full volume. i dont know if this counts as a legal document, but you are all my witnesses. should have named a kid linford. hey greg- how about you guys? linford milinovich. it just rolls off the tongue.

Julie said...

just got their christmas album in the mail yesterday, actually. forget what it's called, but it's really awesome! very chill christmas stuff... and the album artwork is always awesome. i highly recommend it. well, i didn't walk uphill both ways barefoot to see otr, but it is one of the only concerts i went to on a "school night." saw christina there, actually, and i stood for the entire concert in my "teacher clothes" after putting in a long day. i wouldn't have done that for anyone but otr. we missed seeing them this year so far, i'm in for some more. yeah, and i love ohio. the song. not the state. ;)
ps. a good friend of mine once told me that after seeing karen on stage, he needed to go to confession. she does do a lot of swinging and swooning!

greg. said...

thank you for the overtherhine comments. its good to know you are out there reading and paying attention. if i introduced otr to you, you are welcome. if you introduced them to me (nate smith was the one), THANK YOU!

so, since i posted this the other day, i have not stopped listening to them. i love my ipod. i am expecting the snow angels cd in the mail today, and am looking forward to that. but, as i have listened again so intently these last few days, i have just been reminded of the poetry of the music. it is all just so...real.

monica, i totally get what you are saying about how the music helped you through your dark night. i have been there, too, and have held the music to my chest like a love-letter from a long-lost-love. i have seen the light inside the music, and have walked towards it.

my favorite album absolutely has to be drunkard's prayer. i just love the harsh honesty of that album, their are just putting their failures right out there in such a vulnerable way. it really moves me. my second fave is good dog bad dog, more for musical reasons. i have always loved the more acoustic and raw feel to this album. from the very first note of latter days it had me swooning.

as for karin's music, i would agree, julie, that she can be kind of seductive. at least, i used to think that. but, i feel like that has changed quite a bit. since they have been married, i get a different feel from them when they are on stage. it is almost like they are just so happy to be together making music. they just keep looking at each other, in a deep connected sort of way, and smile contentedly. i mean, don't get me wrong, you can still tell that music is coursing through her veins and is a fire burning her skin and her soul, but it seems to manifest itself in a different way these days. at least that's my humble opinion.

i have seriously thought about naming a son linford. i mean, i like that it is somewhat unusual. but, it, as monica points out, it doesn't exactly fit real well with milinovich.

did anyone ever read linford's book? it is really good. i will share...

i also think they should print their song lyrics in a book, like poetry. michael wilson, the photographer who does their album art, could do the design for the book. it would be awesome. i would buy it for all of you for Christmas.

gotta go check the mailbox,

greg.

mego said...

I saw OTR once at GCC and really liked them. I also listened to good dog bad dog alot - but I never kept up with them after that. SO I like them in theory but the last I've heard is probably 7 or 8 years old. Do I qualify for a free CD?

Crafty P said...

ahhhh.

one of my favorite subjects in life: music. and next: over the rhine.

thank you greg.

they have made me so happy.

karin makes me swoon. her voice is just so, so.... well, you know, if you know them.

jack and virginia
all i need is everything
lucy
orphan girl

just a few of my fave songs

I'll never forget their show at gcc where I first heard orphan girl. i can still see all those candles lining the stage and the atmosphere was so 'out of body' and beautiful all at once.

i have yet to receive the christmas album, not sure if it will be in my stocking this year. i always beat vinny to the punch with ordering otr cds.

so lamenting the fact that I will not be at the cincinnati how YET AGAIN this year. I've always wanted to attend.

i'm so exhausted at this point, so i may have to continue my praise of otr over at my blog in the days to come. maybe on the darkest night o the year... that seems fitting.

cheers

ps. linford introduced me to a favorite christmas tale: A Child's Christmas in Wales- love it

pps. i love running into old friends at otr shows. especially milinovich's!!

Erin said...

Greg,
Didn't know you were blogging! Now you're on my list.
Marcin and I were super bummed they didn't make it to Pittsburgh this year. It's been an annual tradition for a while now. Last year we drove to Columbus to see them at Christmas. I don't have forever to write about the influence over the rhine has made on me and us. We've seen them more than the I can count on my fingers and we're probably close to using up all the toes. It's amazing all the time. They're sort of like the Bible, in that you can hear a song many many times, and then in a certain time and place in your life, a lyric will really hit you in a different way.
Now I must go order the new CD.
Erin

greg. said...

erin,

welcome to the blog. please, take your shoes off. i insist. relax. would you like some tea or something? cup of coffee? (i only serve fair trade here). i totally encourage you to snoop around. seriously. look under the cushions or in the drawers. you are welcome here.

greg.

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