Over The Rhine- Drunkard’s Prayer (Back Porch)
review by Joe del Tufo

Track Listing

1. I Want You To Be My Love
2. Born
3. Drunkard's Prayer
4. Bluer
5. Spark
6. Hush Now (Stella's Tarantella)
7. Lookin' Forward
8. Little Did I Know
9. Who Will Guard The Door
10. Firefly
11. My Funny Valentine

Over The Rhine may very well be the best-kept secret in music. Since forming over 15 years ago, the band have quietly released nine albums, each different and remarkable in their own way. Their 1996 Good Dog, Bad Dog release signaled the band’s coming out- with the tracks All I Need Is Everything and Latter Days marking territory that they would later come to own. Films For Radio followed with a stronger production and solid, radio-friendly tracks like the synth-driven The World Can Wait and the lush Give Me Strength. It was a solid release, if perhaps a little too heavy on the gloss, but it could not have foretold what would follow. In 2003, Over The Rhine released Ohio- an album by which careers are defined. It was a massive, sprawling loosely conceptual double album that was thick with hook-laden tunes. It was rock solid from corner to corner. It was also an impossible album to follow up.

Rather than taking on the beast that was Ohio, Over The Rhine decided to take a simpler approach. Recorded in the home of Bergquist and husband/ pianist /songwriter Linford Detweiler, Drunkard’s Prayer exposes the raw emotion of their relationship. It is as much about the silence within the music as it is the music itself. There is a warmth at the core of each of these tracks, even the melancholy ones, that belies logic and gives the disc a unique persona. On some level, it exists as a child that the two are raising, guided by the gentle thoughts and whispers of the songwriters.

As one might expect, the first listen is comparatively underwhelming. This is a quiet, personal disc, and a careful listener feels like an eavesdropper into the dusty spaces of the songwriters. You will not tap your toes listening to this one. You will peer through the windows, thumb the dust for a better view, and hope not to be seen.

Vocalist Karen Bergquist charges each track with her perfectly-infused emotion. With Bergquist nothing is ever overdone, and each intonation is hit with just enough sensitivity to render the intended feeling, but never more. On tracks like I Want You To Be My Love we are witness to the beauty that can only be found in pure simplicity. Without being trite for one second, Berquist is able to inject seemingly exhausted lines like “I want you to want me now, like I want you” with such authenticity that the listener is just left stunned, overwhelmed by the honesty and undeniability of the delivery. It is a moment of pop perfection. The track Born follows in the same fashion. With lines like “I was born to laugh, I learned to laugh through my tears” we know we are on tender ground. Detweiler’s tinkling of the keys and Bergquist’s delicate plucking of the acoustic guitar create a soft bed from which Born rides. The track is a longing for something real- a connection made after of the walls and masks have been stripped away. The overlapping vocals that bring the track to a close are haunting and rife with yearning.

There are numerous highlights. The soaring highs and poetic wordplay of Spark. The show-stopping line “Are we gonna leave here strangers?” from Bluer. The dark cabaret of Hush Now (Stella’s Tarantella). The jangly and upbeat (and toe-tapping!) Lookin’ Forward with its great “I’m lookin’ forward to looking back on these days” chorus. The dramatic reinvention of the classic track My Funny Valentine, that has never sounded so alive. Every track presents a different wavelength of the same prism.

With Drunkard’s Prayer Over The Rhine have shown their ability to master another dimension. This is a disc born from emotional vulnerability, a 2 am conversation expressed when all of the inhibitions have been left in the real world. It is drunk laughter and exhausted tears, a silent waltz after the dust has settled. Kudos to them for being brave enough to share this with their fans. We have all been rewarded for having experienced this glimpse of their souls.

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