Over the Rhine – The Long Surrender

January 01, 1970

(Great Speckled Dog)




It’s always taken an intent listen to fully explore the
quiet tones and subtle textures that inhabit each new outing from the Ohio-based
couple that refers to itself as Over the Rhine. After 20 years of crafting
their dark, image-evocative songs, Linford Detweiler and Karen Berquist have
etched a singular template, one that marries wistful longing with the subdued
strains of nocturnal melodies that are as eerie and isolated as the Civil
War-era house they inhabit outside Cincinnati.
The enlistment of producer Joe Henry for their latest album — a man known
mainly for reviving the careers of revered yet often forgotten artists — finds
a surprisingly seamless fit here, and while Henry participated in the crafting
of at least two songs, his is a subtle presence that underscores the
proceedings but never intrudes. This is, in sum, an Over the Rhine record built
to their standards, and their standards only.


That said, The Long
is a marvelously evocative effort, one that recalls the torch
song epiphanies of Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughn and Ella Fitzgerald, while
capturing the sepia tint of their rural environs, complete with creaky old
houses and revered family heirlooms.  This
is especially true of such songs as “The King Knows How,” “There’s a Bluebird
in My Heart” and “Days Like These,” solemn, sobering entries with a bare hint
of seduction. The duo tends to lean towards hushed soliloquies and shadowy melodies
conveyed with a haunting timbre and the occasional air of foreboding. The ache
is often palpable, particularly on the scalding ballad “Sharpest Blade,” and within
Berquist’s anguished exchange with guest Lucinda Williams on the telling
“Undamned.” Nevertheless, the couple can craft undeniably gorgeous refrains, as
evidenced by the sinewy strains of “Only God Can Save Us Know” and the restless
drift of “All My Favorite People.” Sparse, sultry and yet undeniably
mesmerizing, The Long Surrender is a
clear victory for all concerned.


God Can Save Us Know,” “Undamned,” “There’s a Bluebird in My Heart” LEE


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