The Long Surrender
Artist: Over the Rhine
(c)2011 Independent (Great Speckled Dog)
Duration: 13 tracks, 55:34
Anytime I listen to OtR, it's like the feeling you get when returning to your home town after a long spell. The same streets, the general store, that old tire swing still hanging from the oak tree down the street from the house you grew up in, all whisking and beckoning back to a simpler time in your life. The simpler time was no less relevant than it is in this moment. Old faces and friends, new faces occupying your old haunts, that broken down car where plenty of boyhood memories came alive.
This new chapter for Karin and Linford appears embedded in the meat, the guts of the every day man. Her soulful pining, which grabs at the air like an in-the-moment blues singer pulling at generational ghosts, is altogether serene, subtle, and haunting. Married to Linford's tasteful compositions and delicate piano fingers, their presence in this modern musical landscape is anything but a passing shadow. Their imprint, I dare say, will be a lasting one.
"The Long Surrender" reminds me of a cross between the gentle moments of "Ohio" (2003) and "Drunkard's Prayer" (2005) and a long, lost Blue Note release of some satin-clad lounge singer that is a collector's item, for the sheer beauty of the voice. Being a listener supported project, "The Laugh Of Recognition", greets the listener with a plea to keep plugging along even though "...Everybody has a dream/That they will never own". Then, the OtR concert-goer settles in to a continuing ballad versus soulful blues/gospel interplay throughout the remainder of this intimate "house concert". There is no other way to explain the intimacy felt throughout their current disc without imagining sitting in some hole-in-the-wall place, totally conscious of the breathtaking moment one is in. "Rave On" is one of those driven songs that you wish never ends with an undercurrent rhythm and subtle effects trailing in the shadows. Different on this disc is the addition of saxophone on a few tracks, and might I say the perfect instrument to compliment Karin's powerful vocals. Few songs stand apart, maybe this just being present mood, but "Undamned," "Infamous Love Song," and "The King Knows How" strike me in that musically tingle spot. Actually, the jazz-dripped "There's A Bluebird In My Heart" and the sax solo make my inner musician sensibilities melt.
Reminiscing about old neighborhoods never felt so comforting. The old tire swing is still hanging from that towering oak tree. Over The Rhine live to see another day. This is the closest to an in-concert experience, in my opinion, that you will find without being there.
For those unacquainted with Over the Rhine (OtR) The Long Surrender is a soft, wonderful adventure. For the veteran this album is that and more. This collection of songs is reminiscent of Drunkards Prayer and most of their double CD Ohio. The album showcases the piano of Linford Detweiler, the vocals of Karin Bergquist, and the song writing of both. Made possible with the financial support of fans, this offering injects saxophone highlighting the haunting melodies always apparent in OTR music. Also, rare duets are found on this LP. Mixing is crisp and clear, production by Joe Henry is artistic and very well done.
The Long Surrender is mainly a collection of ballads telling of life’s tales in a beautiful, artful way. “The Laugh of Recognition” has a gypsy melody with soft, sensuous lyrics. The full emotion and velocity of Bergquist’s vocals can be found on “Rave On”. “Infamous Love Song” harkens back to earlier songs with haunting lyrics ‘Baby, our love song must survive’ accompanied by Detweiler’s signature piano. Bergquist shines in a familiar way with “Only God Can Save Us Now” with backing chorus and underlying acoustic guitar. Beyond the ballads, “The King Knows How” rocks with a reference to the memory of Elvis Presley’s offerings. “All My Favorite People” is a wonderful song of faith, friends, and our times supported by the soft, languid vocals of Bergquist, Detweiler’s rambling blues piano, and well seasoned with a spattering of sax and guitar. Finally, the all too short instrumental “Unspoken” ceremoniously concludes a great, great offering by OtR.
While The Long Surrender is a wonderful, soulful additional to OtR’s catalogue filled with gems, many fans will hope for the next album to again offer the off-beat stories of life with greater emphasis on guitar and percussion. Whether laying out a smooth, soul-filled ballad or romping to a frolicking melody, Over The Rhine is and always has been about quality underpinned by their faith, with a sound all their own which only the richness of time spent together over years of refinement can offer.