My wife and I hardly ever agree on music taste, but there is one band that we both love and cherish deeply: Over the Rhine. There is something about husband-and-wife duo Linford Detweiler and Karin Bergquist’s sultry, soulful music full of grit, struggle, despair, and hope that has touched our marriage in so many ways. The way these two are so perfectly suited for one another musically is astonishing, and it makes it even sweeter that their music is the overflow of a marriage filled with its own joys, sorrows, sin, and forgiveness.
Karin’s voice is so unique, scratchy and worn at one moment, then clear as a ringing bell at another, and you can feel her smile through the speakers when she is playfully articulating her lyrics–as though they hold a secret meaning only she and Linford fully understand. And Linford. My goodness, his skill at the keys gives me shivers. He makes piano playing look attractive, easy, and fun.
My wife and I have seen Over the Rhine at least three times in concert, and they are one of the rare groups who are twice as good live as they are on record. The chemistry between the duo on stage is so tangible it melts your heart and makes you feel almost like something special is happening on stage, and you are just lucky to witness it from the outside.
So, if you are unfamiliar with their giant corpus of work, below I have included seven songs that are so good they will make your toes curl. Give them a listen:
1. “I Want You to Be My Love” from Drunkard’s Prayer
The simplicity of this song is what makes it great. The message is so clear, yet earnest, and honestly, it is probably the song my wife and I have danced to the most throughout our marriage.
2. “Suitcase” from Ohio
This song’s bass line really gets me going, but the narrative of the song is quite sad. It’s a conversation between a feuding couple told from one side, as her spouse stands at the door ready to leave her. It’s heartbreaking and beautiful at the same time.
3. “Only God Can Save Us Now” from The Long Surrender
Each of us is destined to end up losing our physical and mental capacities at the end of our lives. Rather than mourning, Karin croons that once we each find ourselves in that position, we will truly realize what we have claimed to believe all our lives, namely that “only God can save us now.” I’m always a sucker for songs that have a Gospel-style choir as backup.
4. “Ohio” from Ohio
I have never met people who love their state for so many right reasons. Karin and Linford have a love affair with Ohio, and this song is an ode to all the years spent there.
5. “All Over Ohio” from Meet Me at the Edge of the World
So, another song about Ohio. These two own an old farmhouse in Ohio, and from this song, you get the feeling that they live an enchanted life on the edge of the forest in their old rickety and charming home full of quiet intimacy.
6. “All I Ever Get for Christmas Is Blue” Snow Angels
Leave it to Karin to write a blues song about Christmas. This song is so good it hurts. If you are looking for a non-traditional Christmas album to add to the holiday repertoire, Snow Angels is it. It’s full of romance, whimsy, and some sad songs of a long, cold winter.
7. “The Trumpet Child” from The Trumpet Child
This song is about the second coming of Christ, and its the most beautiful theology of the last things I have ever heard–and perhaps the most accurate as well! I love the song’s foreboding expectation: “His final aim to fill with joy the earth that man all but destroyed.”
This bizarre yet loveable tune about Tom Waits is clever and interesting. Also, Linford’s voice makes the whole song. Give it a listen.