The band first began performing together in 1990 in local Cincinnati clubs and gathering places. Their first show at Sudsy Malone’s — on a Monday night — drew about 20 people and most of them friends. But even from these somewhat humble beginnings, audiences immediately believed they had stumbled onto something special. Enveloping their listeners like family, Karin and Linford kept them close to the fold with simple candle-lit stages and playful handwritten newsletters. But above all else, it was the band’s songs that drew in more and more eager fans. Karin Bergquist’s voice, full of longing and love, seemed to pierce the soul and became the unmistakable focal point of Over the Rhine’s richly spiritual music.
Many people who heard Over the Rhine had the strong intuition from the very beginning that these songs were going to be around for a long time. Over the Rhine landed a publishing deal with MCA a few months after their first show at Sudsy’s and received an invitation to open a handful of shows around the Midwest for Bob Dylan. They toured 25 cities with Adrian Belew on their first national tour, and played at festivals in Holland and England.
Offers for record deals came in shortly thereafter and, after ten recordings, Over the Rhine has won the respect of many of their peers. One rewarding development was an invitation Karin and Linford received to become honorary members of the Cowboy Junkies. This special creative collaboration continued for three years and included extensive recording sessions. Canadian singer/songwriter Sarah McLachlan also made a special effort to meet Karin and let her know that she was a fan. Over the Rhine and their music have been referenced by name in such prime time television shows as The X-Files and Angel, and their songs have been heard on Third Watch, Felicity, Jack and Bobby and Mysterious Ways as well as on international compilations alongside artists such as Radiohead, Coldplay, and Dido.
Karin and Linford realized that they were definitely no longer a local band when FILMS FOR RADIO, their 2001 Back Porch release, actually sold more copies in Paris, France, than it did in the entire state of Ohio. The band followed in 2003 with a two CD set named after their home state. OHIO won the duo rave critical reviews and appeared on numerous top ten lists in the U.S. and the U.K. Paste magazine called OHIO “a true confessional masterpiece.” Performing Songwriter described it as “a record of disarming beauty and stunning emotional focus.”
For their new album, DRUNKARD’S PRAYER, Over the Rhine re-immerse themselves in profoundly deep waters, opening the floodgates of their personal relationship. A relaxed, emotionally vulnerable record made in their living room, the album showcases the sonic warmth that can come from recording at home.
“Part of the challenge of being a working musician,” explains Linford, “is just being away from home so much. On the one hand, it’s a real privilege to be able to perform our songs in front of an appreciative audience. On the other, it’s difficult to establish rhythms, be rooted, and build a good life at home when we’re constantly coming and going.” So, the pair opted to record the album in their living room, in a wooden house lovingly called the “Grey Ghost.”
“We decided to keep it close to home this time,” continues Karin. “We gathered a few friends together and made a simple record that was deeply connected to this time in our lives. We chose a palette that included our piano, acoustic guitars, upright bass, some cello, a few horns and subtle textures.”
“We had been sketching and writing off and on for much of the year. We started recording for real in early November and finished mixing on Thanksgiving eve,” says Linford. “We didn’t labor over the songs, which tend to be quite personal. I don’t think we did more than three takes on any of them and quite a few were recorded after playing them once or twice. We’ve found there’s an undeniable warmth and honesty that often comes through in the recordings we make at home.”
Among the introspective vignettes is Born. Several months into a national tour in 2003, Karin and Linford realized that while good things were happening with their music, little energy, creativity, or time was left for their life together. The road began taking a toll on their marriage. They opted to put the tour on hold and retreat home. “When we came home, we bought two cases of wine and decided we were going to put a bottle on the kitchen table every evening and start talking until nothing was left. The idea wasn’t to get smashed, but to talk face-to-face and open up, even if that meant deep into the night.” I Want You To Be My Love caps the sentiment. Linford mentions, “I love when the simplest song, nothing extravagant, nothing innovative, can still make somebody feel something. It’s like experiencing a tiny, three-minute miracle.”
Already a fan favorite, the title track, Drunkard’s Prayer, holds a special place among the songs on the album. Karin explains, “It was the first song we recorded and it set the tone for the songs that followed. Everybody wants to be drunk on the good stuff – drunk on life, love, music, the wine of God, and what not. It seemed natural to name the record after it. Also, DRUNKARD’S PRAYER sounds a little like the name of a race horse, a long shot, a horse with little chance of winning, but the one you’ve got all your money on. We put the image of a white horse on the cover, which we associate with redemption, and we feel the songs on this record tell the story of two people finding their way back home after almost losing everything, each other included.”
“There’s a lot of love on this one.”