Over the Rhine
Love & Revelation
Great Speckled Dog
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The vicissitudes of joy and sorrow—and the ability to differentiate between these two ends of the emotional spectrum—throughout one’s lifetime are defining features of the human condition. We all instinctively seek out happiness and fulfillment in our daily lives, but we also know that we will invariably confront sadness along the way, in its multitude of different forms, some of the minor variety, others painfully profound. Love & Revelation—Over the Rhine’s fifteenth studio album that coincides with the 30-year milestone of their prolific musical partnership—is predicated upon the acknowledgement of this reality and the desire to endure through it all.
The album’s title is an apropos moniker not just for this new collection of songs, but for the expanse of Karin Bergquist and Linford Detweiler’s recorded repertoire together. The kindred musical spirits and life partners have time and time again conjured the most eloquent of songs about the fragility and resilience of the heart. Their words traverse different dimensions and complexities of the human experience, all by finding that perfect thematic, narrative symmetry that resides between the personal and the universal.
“We came to realize that loss is one of the undeniable themes on this record,” Bergquist explains. “We are grieving. And I think a lot of people are. We’ve lost loved ones. We’ve seen our friends struggling with loss—the loss of a child, or partner….And then we know a lot of people turn on the news and are in shock at what they are seeing. Beneath that shock is grief. We are grieving the fact that we aren’t quite sure who we are anymore as Americans. Things are shifting and being revealed. Maybe we are grieving the fact that we thought we were better than this.”
While Love & Revelation delves deep into examining the reconciliation of loss, the eleven compositions contained therein never succumb to defeatism. The white flag is not waved. Instead, there is an underlying implication and optimism that all is, in fact, not lost. That the grief in our personal lives—or the malaise with which some of us now perceive current events in our country—forces us to latch on to the things that are still beautiful and offer redemption when we need it the most. Such as the people we love and hold close to us. Like the songs that we cling to for solace in those darker hours.
Not surprisingly then, considering its dominant themes, Love & Revelation possesses a noticeably more melancholic and sparse sound relative to previous OTR studio albums, with the prominence of the slide guitar adding to the wistful and weary ambiance that permeates throughout. This is immediately evident in the opening notes of “Los Lunas,” a hushed lament for a fractured love that finds Bergquist crying “all the way from Los Lunas to Santa Fe.”
While the musical backdrop remains more somber than sanguine throughout most of the subsequent ten songs, it doesn’t take long for the silver lining underpinning the ever-present sadness to emerge within the album’s lyrical disposition. The introspective “Given Road” suggests that hardship doesn’t need to be permanent, that there is indeed a light that shines at the end of most harrowing tunnels, as Bergquist reflects, “Given time they say / I’ll find the way to ease my troubled mind / When all the lies in front of me / are miles and miles and miles of given road.”
One of the album’s two duets (the Charles Bukowski inspired “Betting On the Muse” being the other), “Let You Down” is a powerful reaffirmation of faith and love, enveloped in Bergquist and Detweiler’s crystalline vocal harmonies. The piano-driven “Making Pictures” examines how our memories inform our evolving identities, enabling us to rediscover what inspires us, while adapting to ever-changing life circumstances.
Other standouts include the soulful, percussive shuffle of the title track, the rollicking ode to simple pleasures “Rocking Chair,” the hymn-like reverie of “Leavin’ Days,” and the album’s final vocal composition “May God Love You (Like You’ve Never Been Loved),” a stripped-down, spirit-redeeming lullaby for troubled souls.
Released back in 2013, the title track of Over the Rhine’s divine double-album Meet Me at the Edge of the World found them contemplating more escapist inclinations (“Is it time to disappear? / Oh babe, can we just get out of here? / You and me love and no one near / Walk me to the edge of the world”). Six years later, Love & Revelation derives its strength and substance not from the prospect of escaping, but rather from the notion of embracing life—the good, the bad and everything in between—in the here and now. Easier said than done, to be sure. But a whole lot easier to do when you have songs like these spurring you on.
Notable Tracks: "Given Road" | “Los Lunas” | "Love & Revelation"