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Live From Nowhere Vol. IV
Artist:  Over the Rhine 
Label:  Independent 
Time:  17 Tracks / 95 mins 

After four volumes it is safe to say that these annual limited edition Live from Nowhere live highlights-of-the-year collections are a tradition. If that is the case, I’d like to do my bit to preserve it.

This year was the band’s twentieth anniversary, so they hired Cincinnati’s Taft theatre to spend a Friday night celebrating their first decade and the Saturday reliving their second. This collection is from the Friday night, and needs two discs to cover it all.
Even within the one night, the two discs each have a different emphasis. Disc one feels a little more solid, while the second is more varied. But bringing it together is Paul Mahern (producer of Ohio and Drunkard’s Prayer), who got this one sorted before he flew off to work with T-Bone Burnett.

As someone who – with the exception of one track on the Roaring Lambs compilation – came to OtR as recently as 2005, half of this material is new to me, the only songs that I have heard being the few that were also on their Discount Fireworks introduction CD. What strikes me is the amount of influence that original guitarist Ric Hordinski had on the band in their early days. Virtually the entire first disc comprises Dettweiler / Hordinski compositions, and his occasional extended solos are so much a part of the material that, were he not back to celebrate the decade, the feel of the whole disc would be very different. 

He uses his effects pedals well, adding texture and variety, but never to show off his toys. What amuses me is the amount of style-theft that he employs – surely with great respect. You can’t go too far into “June” without hearing Dave Gilmour’s contribution to Dark Side of the Moon and expecting it to suddenly break into “Breathe (Reprise)”. Elsewhere “A Gospel Number” is like Atlanta Rhythm Section’s “Spooky.” (Mind you, Karin Bergquist joins in too, with a vocal line nicked straight from John Farnham’s “You’re The Voice” in “Paul and Virginia.”)

You don’t reduce your first decade to just one evening and find weak songs making their way into the set, so there are plenty of cracking tracks here – “Eyes Wide Open” starts it off, “How Does it Feel” follows with its guitar and rap second part, then “Within Without” and the eerily beautiful “Like a Radio,” which features some of the best guitar of the night extending the track to over seven minutes.

The second disc begins with more of a country edge, but rocks up again soon after. “If I’m Drowning” and “I Paint My Name” are both over seven minutes, due to some extensive guitar work from Hordinski. Tracks like “Latter Rain” still give me goosebumps from the classic melody and that little bit of magic that has made it an undroppable encore for so long. Hearing just a simple piano and vocals track sets us up, presumably, for Linford Detweiler to play noticeably more keyboards on the second night.

Problems? The bass is a bit out of tune on “I Painted My Name,” but otherwise this is a very enjoyable romp through the music of this superb band’s first decade. With so many good tracks to choose from, the set list was never going to be a problem. 
I am now desperate for someone to tell me is that the second night will become another 2-CD set called Live from Nowhere, Volume Five. Heaven knows it must have been a great night full of great songs. And as much as I want to preserve their tradition, I would be thrilled if they broke their only-one-release-a-year rule.
Derek Walker


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