Over The Rhine’s Karin Bergquist and Linford Detweiler, wife and husband as well as musical collaborators, have always been willing to lay bare the truth of their experiences.
Their music has remained raw and intimate, revealing things that many artists keep hidden in their emotional (and creative) closets.
So it comes as no surprise that OTR’s most recent offering, Drunkard’s Prayer, takes their authenticity and openness to an entirely new level.
Drunkard’s Prayer is the musical equivalent of a long letter written to a dear friend after an arduous journey. Bergquist and Detweiler candidly tell the story of their faltering marriage and the ways in which they fought to keep both their relationship and their music alive.
“We opted to start over, reinvent our own relationship, dig deep and do the homework to see if we could make our marriage sing,” wrote Detweiler in the album’s liner notes. “We decided to redirect the same thought and energy that we had been putting into writing and performing toward our life at home together.”
This process of reinventing involved placing a few cases of wine on a table and talking nightly until the bottles were empty.
“The idea was not to get piss-drunk,” insisted Detweiler, “but to talk face to face deep into the night.”
These moments are captured like fly-on-the-wall snapshots in Drunkard’s Prayer, with the song “Born” as a prime example: “Pour me a glass of wine/Talk deep into the night/Who knows what we’ll find. Put your elbows on the table/I’ll listen long as I am able/There’s nowhere I’d rather be.”
The result of their reconciliation is, perhaps, their best and most haunting work to date. It is an album that-in true OTR fashion-was recorded in the living room of their farm house in Ohio with sparse production. The songs are heart-wrenching and hopeful, delicate and powerful, all couched in the gentle hum of cello, the deep thump of upright bass, the agonizing beauty of Bergquists’ voice and the kind of truth-telling piano for which Detweiler is renown.
And it is ultimately married love that wins the day.
Drunkard’s Prayer is a quintessential album for any fan of real music created by real people about real life. There is no fluff here, just the sort of intimate and hushed musical conversation one would expect from old friends still making music, still in love.
Thankfully, Bergquist and Detweiler continue to give their fans a shotgun-seat ride along their artistic and relational journey. Just make sure you fasten your seatbelt. Like any good road trip, there are bumps along the way.
See Over the Rhine September 8, 7 p.m. at the Theatre of the Living Arts, 334 South Street. Go to www.overtherhine.com for more information.