Sunday, December 6, 2015

Over the Rhine at the Highline Ballroom

Karin Bergquist
Vocalist/guitarist Karin Bergquist and pianist/guitarist Linford Detweiler met in 1989 while attending college in Canton, Ohio. Detweiler had been playing in a band called Servant. Bergquist and Detweiler formed Over the Rhine as a folk quartet, but in time became a duo with support from various musicians. The band took its name from its home base neighborhood at the time, Over-the-Rhine in Cincinnati, Ohio. Karin and Linford married in 1996 and nearly a decade ago relocated to a pre-Civil War farm in Hillsboro, Ohio. Over the Rhine has released 13 studio albums, the most recent being the band's third holiday album, 2014's Blood Oranges in the Snow. Detweiler also has recorded and released three solo projects composed of home-recorded, piano-based acoustic music.

At the Highline Ballroom tonight, Over the Rhine focused at last half of its set on Christmas or winter songs. These were not the cheerful songs one would hear at any holiday party, however. A cover of Merle Haggard’s "If We Make It Through December" and many other covers and original lyrics featured dark observations of isolation, loneliness and loss. "My Father’s Body" directly acknowledged the empty seat at the holiday table, for instance. The songs sometimes came close to the religious root of Christmas but then detoured, as in "Bethlehem," which explored the irony that the birthplace of Jesus became among the most conflict -filled areas of the world. The set also showcased non-holiday songs from albums such as 2013's double Meet Me at the Edge of the World. Bergquist sang with a lovely, aching inflection and her husband's harmonies made the songs even more graceful. A refuge from the noise and clutter of the season, the charmingly sparse arrangements were so light and airy that one could hear oneself breathe. This was "reality Christmas" and a very unique holiday concert.

Visit Over the Rhine at www.overtherhine.com.