Over the Rhine | 09.08.06

"I grew up around hymns and the titles taught me that words could be beautiful," he says. "Sometimes I wonder, ‘What exactly is on God's iPod?"

 

Blueberry Hill's Duck Room, St. Louis

Over the Rhine makes hot, seductive music. There. I said it. Now you don't have to wonder and I don't have to deal with unwelcome tension. Maybe it's the ease with which the husband and wife duo of Karin Bergquist and Linford Detweiler present their dreamy, hypnotizing brand of organic lounge music. Maybe it's the minimalist approach they bring to their performance, which often consists of nothing more than vocals, a piano, and an "uprighteous" bass. Or maybe it's the mellow atmosphere they create, which leaves room not only for crowd interaction, but for their soundman to be heard giddily singing along with his favorite selections.

"Our sound engineer's name is ‘Juicy' and I met him in a bathroom in Kentucky," Detweiler declares early on in the band's two-hour performance. "Networking!" Bergquist adds without missing a beat. It was this level of chemistry that enabled the band to overcome a few technical glitches and create a family feeling among the crowd at Blueberry Hill's Duck Room. It is also most likely what has kept them in existence for 17 years. During this time they have released roughly an album per year (Detweiler's trio of solo efforts included) and seen the coming and going of countless collaborators. This revolving door of musicians has preserved the freshness of the band's sound. Incorporating elements of jazz, folk, indie pop, and soul, the duo is hard to pin to a specific genre.

"I hear horns and strings on the recording. I'm sorry I can't communicate that," Bergquist says after a few stripped down tunes. "It's really good though," she adds confidently. She's not lying. Bergquist's soulful, pained voice and Detweiler's piano prowess have deservingly led the band to a loyal, age-defying fan base. This night's crowd was evenly spread between those barely old enough to buy drinks and those old enough to be their grandparents. The timeless quality of tunes such as "Bluer," "Rhapsodie," and "Bothered" translates perfectly to attract both twentysomethings with keen taste and fiftysomethings who yearn for the days of classy crooner music.

The distinct personalities of the pair add to the fun of the evening. On the sultry "Hush Now," "Trouble" (written about her weakness for a man with a five o'clock shadow, which Detweiler possesses), and "I Want You to Be My Love" (described as the perfect "20th date song"), Bergquist flirts with the crowd. And they fall right into her hand. The natural emotion of her voice combines with the intimate venue setting (and a pair of high black boots) to woo the single guys and entice the taken ones to move closer to their ladies. Even her crowd banter unintentionally succumbs to it. "I heard Linford playing this melody, so I went and took a shower and recorded the words," she explains. "That was a good shower," Detweiler responds after a moment of awkward silence. "I don't know what you're talking about," says Bergquist as her cheeks flush red. "It was just a shower. Calm down." After the crowd's laughter died down, she grins and adds, "This new song is called ‘Nothing Is Innocent Now.'"

Detweiler's slow, deliberate speech and geeky charm bring the crowd laughter as well as poignant moments. These blend perfectly in "My Beautiful City," his touching and humorous poetry tribute to his hometown of Cincinnati, and the explanation of the muses for his songs. "I grew up around hymns and the titles taught me that words could be beautiful," he says. "Sometimes I wonder, ‘What exactly is on God's iPod?" After hearing the fantastic "Drunkard's Prayer," the jazzy closer "My Love Is a Fever," and the chillingly beautiful highlight "Born," my guess is be Over the Rhine.

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