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Saturday, August 10, 2013

ROUTES & BRANCHES 
featuring the very best of americana, alt.country and roots music
August 3, 2013
Scott Foley

In a dream the other night, I was splayed facedown in a field near the house where I grew up.  My fingers clasped the unruly green grass and I inhaled greedily, sifting the smells of damp soil and moss for a whiff of home.  I am haunted by the yearning for home.  Karin Bergquist and Linford Detweiler get it, this longing.  Over the Rhine's new double album, Meet Me At the Edge of the World is inspired by Nowhere Farm, their pre-Civil War brick farmhouse in Ohio.  "Inspired" is an appropriate word here, as this is an immediate candidate for album of the year.

Back in 2003, the duo's first double disc, Ohio, earned my nod for that year's strongest album.  While their subsequent albums have been satisfying, it's only with Meet Me that Karin and Linford follow up on the promise of Ohio.  As with 2011's Long Surrender, this new collection is produced by Joe Henry.  Whereas that album bore Henry's indelible stamp (the overcast atmosphere, the box-of-rocks percussion), Meet Me takes advantage of his expertise, managing to absorb his influence without succumbing to it.  Henry's looser hand remains evident in the rattletrap arrangement of tunes like "Gonna Let My Soul Catch My Body" and "Baby If This Is Nowhere".  On other cuts such as "I'd Want You" and a cover of the Band's "It Makes No Difference", Bergquist's jazz-inflected voice reaches new heights of expression.  Tunes are indelibly rooted in the soil of their Ohio home, from wildflowers that "brought us to our knees" to "clouds adrift across the sky / Like heaven's laundry hung to dry" and "trees ... gently swaying / Like they're thinkin' 'bout the fall". 

It occurred to me today that I've lived away from my southern Oregon home longer than I dwelt there.  From apartment to apartment, from house to house, growing from two to a family, I've never come close to that same sense of home.  Ironically, the last time I returned there I was driven by a whim, leaving work for a 3 hour drive to a rundown motel.  The next morning, heading down a newly paved road towards my old home, I received a call from my older brother that my mother had passed away unexpectedly.  Finally arriving back home so many years after I could simply walk through the door unannounced, I parked across the street with my windows rolled down.  The light October wind "called up the ghosts through the cracks in my past". 

Time will tell where Over the Rhine's Meet Me At the Edge of the World lands on my 2013 list.  For the time being, its melancholy spirit and effortless grace will provide fine company and I'm pulled towards the fall. 

*  Chris Stapleton, "What Are You Listening To"  internet single  (Mercury, 13)
*  Hurray For the Riff Raff, "Western Cowboy"  My Dearest Darkest Neighbor  (This Is Amer Music, 13)
*  The O's,  "Levee Breaks"  Thunderdog  (Self, 13)
^  Over the Rhine, "Gonna Let My Soul Catch My Body"  Meet Me At the End of the World  (Self, 13)
*  Arliss Nancy, "Pages"  Simple Machines  (Suburban Home, 12)  C
*  Lambchop, "Jim I Wore a Tie Today"  You Don't Know Me: Rediscovering Eddy Arnold  (Plowboy, 13)
*  Scud Mt Boys, "Crown of Thorns"  Do You Love the  Sun  (Ashmont, 13)
*  Glen Campbell, "Rhinestone Cowboy"  See You There  (Surfdog, 13)  D
*  Tim Easton, "Four Queens"  Not Cool  (Campfire Propaganda, 13)  D
*  Carper Family, "Comes a Time"  Old-Fashioned Gal  (Self, 13)
*  Steve Earle, "All My Life"  Transcendental Blues  (Artemis, 00)
*  Whiskey Bottles, "Baby You're Bad Luck"  Grandville  (Self, 13)  C
*  Monocle Band, "Can't Get By"  Monocle Band  (Self, 13)  C,D
*  Chris Shiflett & Dead Peasants, "Pop a Top"  All Hat & No Cattle  (SideOneDummy, 13)
*  Civil Wars, "From This Valley"  Civil Wars  (Sensibility, 13)
*  Robbie Fulks, "Tears Only Run One Way"  Country Love Songs  (Bloodshot, 98)
*  Caroline Rose, "Here Come the Rain"  American Religious  (Parkhill, 13)
*  Matt Hoffman, "Lateral Moves"  Lateral Moves  (Self, 13)  C,D
*  Two Cow Garage, "Hey Cinderella"  Death of the Self Preservation Society  (Last Chance, 13)  D
*  Sara Petite, "Circus Comes To Town"  Circus Comes To Town  (Self, 13)  D
*  Otis Gibbs, "Something More"  Joe Hill's Ashes  (Wanamaker, 10)
*  Big Sandy & His Fly-Rite Boys, "Glad When I'm Gone"  What a Dream It's Been  (Cow Island, 13)  D
*  Rusty Truck, "Buildings"  Kicker Town  (Crosseyed, 13)
*  Natalie Maines, "Silver Bell"  Mother  (Columbia, 13)
*  Hezekiah Goode, "Two Billion Acres of Salt"  Two Billion Acres of Salt  (Self, 13)  C
*  Vince Gill & Paul Franklin, "Foolin' Around"  Bakersfield  (MCA, 13)
*  Blitzen Trapper, "Love the Way You Walk Away"  American Goldwing  (Sub Pop, 11)
*  Hiss Golden Messenger, "Serpent Is Kind"  Haw  (Paradise of Bachelors, 13)
*  Amanda Shires, "Bulletproof"  Down Fell the Doves  (Silver Knife, 13)

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