Saturday, September 21, 2013

OtR's "Meet Me at the Edge of the World"

Meet Me at the Edge of the World, Over the Rhine’s new release, finally arrived.  Although I’ve been listening to it for a couple of months now, nothing beats hearing it on vinyl.

This album is strikingly different from the band’s 2010 release, The Long Surrender.  That album was darker and harder hitting, with such songs as “The Laugh of Recognition, “Rave On” and “Undamned.”  Save for the blues-infused “Gonna Let My Soul Catch My Body” and “Baby if this is Nowhere,” the bulk of these songs are more contemplative.  This is pure Americana.

At the core of Over the Rhine is Karin Bergquist and Linford Detweiler, a couple who have been making music together for over 20 years.  This album is inspired by their pre-Civil War farmhouse they lovingly call “Nowhere Farm.”  The farm is located about an hour outside of Cincinnati, in Highland County.  In fact, one of the best songs on the album is a love song entitled “Highland County.”

How did you find me
I can’t remember anymore
Along the Ohio
My wreckage washed upon your shore

Ohio figures prominently in these songs, even more than in their 2003 double-album release, Ohio. Most of the songs reference the state in one way or another.  The song “All Over Ohio,” the first true duet by Bergquist and Detweiler, is the highlight of the album.

I still get shivers when I hear
You singin’ down the hall
I’m gonna kiss you all over Ohio

That song features lovingly penned allusions to Ohio and snippets of the couple’s biography.  Detweiler sings about his father:

And the halleujah chorus
Used to make my Daddy cry
I still wonder ‘bout the ruckus
Angels make up there on high
In the meanwhile there are measures
We can take to get us by
Lay me down next to you in Ohio

And gives a rare, pointed commentary on current politics:

I have seen the slow corruption
Of the best ideas of Christ
In the pulpits of our nation
Gospel turned into white lies
If you preach a subtle hatred -
The bible as your alibi
Goddam you right here in Ohio

With music and lyrics steeped in imagery and emotion, these songs act like paint on a canvas.  This may be the most poignant and mature album they have ever made.   Never ones to underestimate their fans, Meet Me at the Edge of the World continues OtR’s tradition of making music that not only tells stories but feel as if they are late night conversations among friends.

Sacred Ground,” the third song on the album, tells the story of the veins of coal that stretched through southern Ohio and the many hands that have toiled bringing the coal to the surface.  It is hauntingly sung by Bergquist and Detweiler with beautiful harmony.

Love me like a memory held too long
Like the need to feel some forgotten song
Kiss me to chills like there’s only me
Like it’s hard to kill the last cottonwood tree
Love me later when the stars fall down
A burning light for a wedding gown
They stole the blood right out of this ground
They’d still kick a flower when it’s down
Help me trace the scars on mountains
The sun that sets in a bloody fountain
Take me home and lay me down
On the hungry earth (Love me, love me)
On the sacred ground

Although it’s nice to hear Linford taking his turn singing on some of the tracks, Karin Bergquist has never sounded better.  She has a voice infused with soul; an ability to pull emotion and hit one in the gut with a turn of phrase.  In “All of It Was Music,” she hints at the couple’s tumultuous past and admits that it was music that held them together, especially in their early days living in the Over the Rhine neighborhood in Cincinnati:

The night was bending in a grin
As streetlight shadows tattooed skin
Whatever we were tangled in
All of it was music
The bed sheets were our whitest flag
The war became a game of tag
We surrendered all we had
And all we had was music
The humming of the window unit
The street noise often sang right through it
A drunken song somehow we knew that
Even it was music
The newness of uncovered skin
Your messy hair your goofy grin
Your shattered places deep within
All of it was music

In the opening track, “Meet Me at the Edge of the World,” Karin Berquist invites us into their world, reminding us later in "Called Home" to "leave the edges wild."  The album careens around themes of home, love and loss and offers up a couple of Linford’s instrumentals.  It then ends with the beautiful “Favorite Time of Light,” that moment when the sun is just about to dip beyond the horizon, casting the sky in a radiant warm hue.   It is those moments that are most important, when we stop and gaze upon the beauty of the world, holding our loved ones close and forgetting, for a moment, our worries and fears.

Leave the dishes in the sink don’t overthink it
Close up the brokenhearted piano
Join me on the porch if you can swing it
Let’s dream an ocean in Ohio

You’ve been working so hard I can feel it -
The clean and honest sweat upon your skin
I wanna see the rosy light on your face
Is this evening free or did it cost us everything

It’s our favorite time of light
Just before the day kisses the night
You see the redwing blackbirds fly
The sun’s a big ol’ lazy eye

And when the day is bending low
And rolling fields begin to glow
Feels like we traveled all this way
Just so I could hear you say
It’s our favorite
Our favorite time of light

This is an album that deserves to be absorbed and needs several listens to truly appreciate the nuances it offers.  I suggest a glass of wine and a cozy fire.  You will not be disappointed.

I wanna see you smiling
On Sunday afternoon
I want your soul to sing you
An everlasting tune
("Earthbound Love Song")

Meet Me at the Edge of the World Track Listing:

Side A
1. Meet Me At The Edge Of The World
2. Called Home
3. Sacred Ground
4. I'd Want You
5. Gonna Let My Soul Catch My Body

Side B
6. All Of It Was Music
7. Don’t Let The Bastards Get You Down
8. Highland County
9. Wait

Side C
1. All Over Ohio
2. Earthbound Love Song
3. Against The Grain
4. It Makes No Difference

Side D
5. Blue Jean Sky
6. Cuyahoga
7. Baby If This Is Nowhere
8. Wildflower Bouquet
9. The Birds Of Nowhere Farm
10. Favorite Time Of Light

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Next on AiV: K-Tel's 20 Dynamic Hits from 1972

After an extended summer hiatus, Adventures in Vinyl is back with a very special K-Tel album from 1972.  First of all, this album is brand new--never opened.  You'll be hearing it first played on AiV.

Secondly, this album was a K-Tel album, but also a "Top Star Festival" album, which was the record label of the United Nations. Yeah, that United Nations.  They had released several albums in the 60s and early 70s with all proceeds going to refugee aid.  As far as I know, this is the only one released by K-Tel.

The album came out in 1972 and was advertised like any other K-Tel album on television.  It contains hits from James Taylor, Elton John, the Osmonds, Rod Stewart and many, many more--another great sampling of music from the time.

And, as a special treat, it also has a very rare recording of Aretha Franklin covering Frank Sinatra's "My Way."  This was never released until 2008.  How K-Tel got a hold of that recording, I do not know.

Not only that, the album begins with a song that actually began as a television commercial jingle. Remember "I'd Like to Buy the World a Coke"?  That song proved so popular it was worked into a hit song and was covered by two bands in 1972:  the New Seekers and the Hillside Singers.  The version performed by the Hillside Singers starts off the album.  If there is a better song to bring you back to that time, I have yet to hear it.

Adventures in Vinyl can be heard at the following times (central):

Tuesday 1 pm 
Wednesday 2 am
Thursday 10 am
Saturday 12 pm
Sunday 4 pm

Adventures in Vinyl:  the only radio show dedicated to the lost art of the K-Tel record compilation.