The Long Surrender

  •   1. The Laugh Of Recognition
  •   2. Sharpest Blade
  •   3. Rave On
  •   4. Soon
  •   5. Infamous Love Song
  •   6. Undamned
  •   7. Only God Can Save Us Now
  •   8. Oh Yeah By The Way
  •   9. The King Knows How
  •   10. There's A Bluebird In My Heart
  •   11. Days Like This
  •   12. All My Favorite People
  •   13. Unspoken
1. The Laugh Of Recognition

Come on boys
It’s time to settle down
What do you think you’ll gain
From all this runnin’ around?

Come on boys
It’s time to let it go
Everybody has a dream
That they will never own

Come on boys
It’s time to let her down
You might be surprised
How far she’ll get
With her feet on the ground

So come on boys

Every night we always
Led the pack
There and back

And we never could do anything half
You just have to laugh
Oh you gotta laugh

So come on boys
It weren’t not for tryin’
It’s called the laugh of recognition
When you laugh but you feel like dyin’

Come on boys
Now don’t be shy
If we gotta walk away
We gotta hold our heads up high

You’re not the first one to start again
Come on now friends
There is something to be said for tenacity
I’ll hold on to you
If you hold on to me
Come on boys

2. Sharpest Blade

There was a time
I could sleep anywhere—
My feet on a chair,
My heart in the woods;

But love was aloof,
Just a beggar for tips
A mime on whose lips
No promises stood

But you cut me quick
In the light of the shade,
With the edge of the green
Of the yard’s sharpest blade;
When nothing I knew
Was all that it seemed

I still dreamed
Of a love to outlive us
I still prayed
That this night would outlast us
And redeem some small thing
Far beyond me

Blossoms begin
Like the tip of a spear,
Or the curve of a tear
From a soldier who weeps;
Seducing the guard
Of lost years falling by—
As flowers to lie
On the dead feigning sleep

But you cut me quick
In the light of the shade,
On the edge of the green
Of the yard’s dark parade;
When nothing we knew
Was all that it seemed
I still dreamed
Of a love to outlive us
I still prayed
That this night would forgive us
And redeem some small thing
Far beyond me

But you cut me quick
In the light of the shade,
On the edge of the green
Of the yard’s sharpest blade;
When nothing we knew
Was all that it seemed
I still dream
Of a love to outlive us
And I still pray
That this night will convince us
And redeem some small thing
Far beyond me

3. Rave On

Ramblin’ over caliche
With a busted muffler set it free
Rock on

Blastin’ Buddy on the radio
The Baptist wheat fields rolling low
Rock on Rave on

Messiah come in a flat-head Ford
To the Kansas young and dumb and bored
Rock on

Adrenaline spills like blood that pours
Screamin’ out –
Prepare Ye the way of the Lord
Rock on
Rave on

Redman scored between his teeth
Jackrabbits scatter underneath
Rock on

Bear down deep into the soul
The floorboard groans the rubber rolls
Rock on Rave on

(Yeah we’re) hauling ass to Arkalon
The ghost town on the Cimarron
Rock on

With eyes backlit by some wicked fire
He pops the wheel of raw desire
Rock on
Rave on

Blood is sweet, the veil is thin
Let your wreckage cleanse my skin

Never give up, never say die
To the long surrender
When the red tail dives
Rock on
Rave on

4. Soon

Soon
The near parade will find us
Soon
The fall-by-the-way may bind us

Tongue and groove, body and fender
The weight of your world is splendor
Soon

Soon
The troubled past will leave us
Soon
The bird of fear won’t need us
The blood of our veins will guide us
A map of the train inside us
Soon

Soon

The howl of the angels will mark out time
The gift of your heart frees me from mine

Soon
The night that we call forever
Burns like a lost love letter
Soon
Soon
Soon

5. Infamous Love Song

I sing
The bebop apocalypse
Lean into you
God’s hands on my hips
Grip the midnight microphone
Steel every cell of my flesh and bone
I wrestle my angel
In smoky stage lights
Climb Jacob’s ladder
Two thousand more flights
Tell St. Valentine, Hey gimme five—
Baby our love song must survive

We were born in the dirt
On our hands and knees
But started out climbing
Deciduous trees
We learned to sway
Ridiculously high
Hungry to taste
Mouthfuls of sky
Now I bring all our secrets
To show and tell
How we dragged each other
Through heaven and hell
It’s our smoking gun
But hey, we’re still alive
Baby our love song must survive

Your third-story windows
On thirteenth and Main
Still glow with an eerie
Mysterious flame
Where we learned to slow dance
By dawn’s early light
And tried to be tender
With all of our might
And just down the street
At the Milner Hotel
Rosie’s sloppin’ the hogs
And the infidels
They all went out of business
When the market took a dive
Baby our love song must survive

There’s nights when I mostly
Just feel like a thief
With a prized possession
A gleeful belief
That love’s both a joke
And a serious matter
You don’t quite know your muse
But you know when you’ve had her
When I first saw your face yeah
It hurt you to smile
Your lips tasted like tears
I could kiss them for miles
On a midnight train—
May it never arrive
Baby our love song must survive

There’s days when we lose
Our appetite
And days when we’re bruised
And losing the fight
Of a lifetime, days
When we’re looking inside
Wondering if
We’re half dead or alive
But the slow honey drip
Of those young nights long gone—
The memory’s a friendly whip
Urging us on
My mouth on your lips
Is just trying to revive
Baby our love song must survive

This love’s the affirmation
Of everything good
The oxygen coursing
Through the blood
The feel of being understood
The belief that, Oh Yes,
Somehow we could
And the milkyway looks
Like a flimsy blouse
But now we’re gentrified
In our civil war house
Safe as a painting
By Currier and Ives
Baby our love song must survive

So I still sing
The bebop apocalypse
Lean into you
God’s hands on my hips
Grip the midnight microphone
Steel every cell of my flesh and bone
I still wrestle my angel
In smoky stage lights
Climb Jacob’s ladder
Two thousand more flights
C’mon St. Christopher, how ‘bout a high five—
Baby our love song must survive

6. Undamned

Sometimes all we believe
Turns out to be just a scam
Just trying to get my world
Get it undamned

It’s been my lifelong song
Who’ll take me Just As I Am
Help me to get my world
Get it undamned

I’ve got a thousand lost songs
(Far too many they just got away)
I’ve done a thousand things wrong
(Far too many for me to name)
But I’m not too far gone
To fall
Headlong
Into the arms that love me

Don’t count me out just yet
I’m not your little lost lamb
God might still get my world
Get it undamned

I’ve got a thousand lost songs
(Far too many they just got away)
I’ve done a thousand things wrong
(Far too many for me to name)
But I’m not too far gone
To fall
Headlong
Into the arms that love me

I’ve got a thousand lost songs
(Far too many they just got away)
I’ve done a thousand things wrong
(Far too many for me to name)
But I’m not too far gone
To fall
Headlong
Into the arms that love me

But I’m not too far gone
To fall
Headlong…

 

7. Only God Can Save Us Now

Margie struck Geneva with her baby doll
Barb knocked off the medcart comin’ down the hall
Bob leads the congregation when he sings
How Now Brown Cow
Only God can save us now

Jean says Fuzzy wuzzy fuzzy wuzzy was a bear
Miss Cleve sings Hallelujah from the choir in her chair
Behind his busy apron Raymond’s naked standing proud
Only God can save us now

Who will save me
From myself
In the night?

When my time has come and it may be comin’ soon
Don’t mind me if you come to find me howlin’ at the moon
I’ll need a busy apron and a half-sedated crowd
Only God can save us now

A baby doll some chocolates and flowers made of silk
A clean room with a window and some Prozac in warm milk
And sneak us in some whiskey ‘cause it’s prob’ly not allowed
Only God can save us now

8. Oh Yeah By The Way

Oh yeah by the way
Oh yeah by the way
The thought of you it shook my head
Just today

Oh yeah by the way
Oh yeah by the way
What a waste that I still love you
After the mess you’ve made

What a waste that I’m not jaded
Once in awhile I even smile
What a waste you’re just a stranger
To me now

Oh yeah by the way
Oh yeah by the way
There are still so many things
I wonder if I should say, like

What a waste that I still love you
But I can’t erase one scar
All your self-inflicted wounds
Have made you what you are

So goodbye yesterday
Goodbye yesterday
I probably should have guessed that it could
End this way

What if I’m as good as you at
Walkin’ away

9. The King Knows How

I feel as lonely
As anybody
Who’s cryin’ on a Friday night

Once in a while
On my radio dial
I accidentally get it right

I’m thinkin’ I might be tempted to
Slide on over
Slide on over

I’m thinkin’ I need a little somethin’ to
Tide me over
Tide me over
Till Memphis

You know that lonesome
Whippoorwill?
I know a girl who is bluer still

Is that a jukebox altar call
Or just a soft smoky place to fall?

I’m thinkin’ I might be tempted to
Slide on over
Slide on over

I’m thinkin’ I need a little somethin’ to
Tide me over
Tide me over
Till Memphis

Cause the king knows how
To take me all the way
Yeah the king knows how
{the King knows how}
To take me all the way
To Memphis

I feel as lonely
As anybody
Who’s cryin’ on a Friday night

I’m not laughin’
Because it’s funny.
Hank is laughin’ ‘cause he’s always right

I’m thinkin’ I might be tempted to
Slide on over
Slide on over

I’m thinkin’ I need a little something to
Tide me over
Tide me over

You strike the match boy
But do you know how
To burn it all the way down
To Memphis

‘Cause the king knows how
{The King knows how}
To take me all the way…

10. There's A Bluebird In My Heart

There’s a bluebird in my heart
One that’s drowning in its own wistful tune
For fear of pending tomorrow and lofty full moons
(And) never knowing where to start

There’s a bluebird with a song
With little effort how she sings it so well
Like a lover with a broken-throated story to tell
I’ve kept her secret for so long

Why do you always make me drink alone?
When it comes to losing you I’m always on my own

There’s a bluebird in my heart
Drowning in bourbon and brushstrokes all night
When all the ordinary sinners take flight
No one will ever see your wings

11. Days Like This

Days like this
You look up at the sky above you
Days like this
You think about the ones that love you

All I wanna do is live my life honestly
I just wanna wake up and see your face next to me
Every regret I have I will go set it free
It will be good for me

Days like this
You think about the ones that went before you
Days like this
Have you ever seen the sky it’s such a clear blue

All I wanna do is live my life honestly
I just wanna wake up and see your face next to me
Every regret I have I will go set it free
It will be good for me

Days like this
You think about the ones that love you
Days like this
Have you ever seen the sky it’s such a clear blue

12. All My Favorite People

All my favorite people are broken
Believe me
My heart should know

Some prayers are better left unspoken
I just wanna hold you
And let the rest go

All my friends are part saint and part sinner
We lean on each other
Try to rise above

We’re not afraid to admit we’re all still beginners
We’re all late bloomers
When it comes to love

All my favorite people are broken
Believe me
My heart should know

Orphaned believers, skeptical dreamers
Step forward
You can stay right here
You don’t have to go

Is each wound you’ve received
Just a burdensome gift?
It gets so hard to lift
Yourself up off the ground

But the poet says, We must praise the mutilated world
We’re all workin’ the graveyard shift
You might as well sing along

All my favorite people are broken
Believe me
My heart should know

(As for) your tender heart—
This world’s gonna rip it wide open
It ain’t gonna be pretty
But you’re not alone

‘Cause all my favorite people are broken
Believe me
My heart should know

Orphaned believers, skeptical dreamers
You’re welcome
Yeah, you’re safe right here
You don’t have to go

‘Cause all my favorite people are broken
Believe me
I should know

Some prayers are better left unspoken
I just wanna hold you
And let the rest go

13. Unspoken

Teddy Roosevelt once said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” I looked it up, and that’s what I found, anyway; and it surprised me, too. I don’t know what malaria fever-dream might have brought such a tough customer face-to-face with that startling bit of clarity, but I do know when the conscious thought first flashed across my life’s personal Situation Screen: Karin Bergquist –one half of the puzzle that is Over the Rhine— walked into my kitchen, peeled off a corduroy jacket, and there it was: inked into her arm, just below the left shoulder. Accompanied by a delicate hummingbird, the tattoo’s flowing script seemed as folksy and inevitable as if it had been cut there by Ockham’s own straight razor. It read like unadulterated truth, that is, and it stuck with me.

Karin and husband Linford Detweiler came west from their farm in Ohio ready to shed not only comparison, it seems, but all assumptions about how their new songs might live and breathe, hover and speak. Before their arrival on my turf, my communication with them had been a fast flurry of emails, occasional phone conferences, and the bundles of song that I’d find sporadically filling my morning’s inbox. I had imagined an elaborate life for the two of them, stitched together from a few threadbare facts and scrap references, and from the séance-like voices that their demos used to address me. I pictured Karin and Linford in the attic of their Civil War-era house in the rural outskirts of Cincinnati, huddled beneath a swinging bare bulb, shooing away pigeons, and confiding songs-in-progress into an old German-made reel-to-reel recorder. (I don’t know how they got that piano up there.) That’s what the songs implied upon arrival; and I imagined they paid a young undergrad, working part-time at the local Box-n-Ship, to loop the magnetic tape through a special port in his laptop in order for the songs to land in my lap, still crackling and smelling of mowed grass and jarred fireflies…still evolving.

I am not suggesting that these songs as I first heard them sounded in any way anachronistic; but rather that they shimmered in some amber band of light that stood outside of time…hung like blue smoke in rafters. And as if in some malaria fever-dream, they spoke to me with conspiratorial urgency a distilled bit of truth and reckoning I was loath to wake from.

Leave me to my fevers! I must somehow have properly conveyed, because the two gentle souls did nothing to abate them when we were, at last, standing together on my threshold in California, and our work began in earnest. They brought with them, in fact, the greatest gift one can bring to a collaborative outing, that being an abiding faith in, and a continuing wonder at the mystery involved in the process.

I’d like to say that while Over the Rhine were on my watch we did Everything in pursuit of each song’s illumination; but though we were plenty prepared –to give blood, if necessary— not Everything was required. In my role as Houdini (the hustler-illusionist a good analogy for the job of the producer), I stood ready to saw Karin in half as needed, or cough up a key while Linford suspended himself in a fish tank bound in locked chains; but to my surprise (no, it doesn’t always work like this) all that really was required was our communion: as soon as all of us in attendance came to the table, as it were, each song was invariably there ahead of us, already singing, talking trash, spilling wine and splitting biscuits.

There’s that razor again: cutting away unnecessary assumptions to get clearly to the simplest (though not necessarily easiest) revelations; etching cartoon hummingbirds into bare skin to attend naked truth.

We settled for that, then –for luminance over order, for terse beauty and a smeared-lipstick brand of soul; for spot-welding over handicraft; for leaving “the edges wild,” as Linford’s father had once so richly advised him, and for never comparing this particular journey to any other. I hear this batch of songs now the way the last one of them, All My Favorite People, seems to see the world: as naked in its finery, fiercely tender, and thorny with sweet promise; as heroically humbled, and broken to the point of availing true light to anyone who cares to look inside.

That’s a gift, by the way: brokenness is raw humanity on display, and anyone willing for you to see theirs is generously offering you something. Not for the sake of comparison, but as shared experience and continuing wonder at the mystery involved in the process.

No, I don’t know how Linford and Karin got that stately piano up through their attic’s small hatch door I have imagined. But I am not in the business of dispelling mysteries, only abiding with them when invited. Mystery is life’s strange and glorious weather, so to speak. And this time, Over the Rhine brought it with them.
Joe Henry
Barcelona, June 2010

PRODUCER:
Joe Henry


MUSICIANS:
Karin Bergquist –
vocals and acoustic guitar

Linford Detweiler –
piano, vocals, Wurlitzer, acoustic and electric guitar

Greg Leisz –
all stringed things great and small

Keefus Ciancia –
skeleton keys, lost radio, prepared piano, and ship-to-shore orchestration

Patrick Warren –
pump organ, iron lung and laptop zither

Levon Henry –
tenor saxophone

David Piltch –
upright and electrified bass

Jay Bellerose –
bells and whistles, basement tubs, wooden legs, pocket change and false teeth

Backing vocals and tornado management:
Niki Haris
Jean McClain
James Gilstrap

Special guest:
Lucinda Williams –
vocals on “Undamned” (Lucinda Williams appears courtesy of Lost Highway Records)

Recorded and Mixed by Ryan Freeland

Recorded May 17-21, 2010, at The Garfield House, South Pasadena, CA

Mixed at The Garfield House and at Stampede Origin, Los Angeles, CA

Mastered by Ryan Freeland at Stampede Origin, Los Angeles, CA

Catering: Heirloom Bakery and Café

Other essentials: Mission Wines; Equator, and La Terza Coffees

Photography: Michael Wilson

Design: Rob Seiffert/Madhouse

Thanks to our families, friends and extended musical family. Without you, we’d be homeless.

Special thanks to Joe, Melanie, Levon and Lulu for their warmth, inspiration and hospitality. Downstairs at The Garfield House is where the ship sets sail, but upstairs is not without its significant rewards as well.

Thanks to Bill Ivester for his many hours freely given helping to manage OtR Social Media, and for documenting more than 150 Over the Rhine concerts.

Thanks to Justin Golden for invaluable assistance recording our demos for THE LONG SURRENDER at Nowhere Farm.

For all Over the Rhine contact information, tour dates, discography and much more please visit: OvertheRhine.com

Sincere thanks to our touring band and crew for the many miles covered.

Thanks to Shure for providing microphones for all of Over the Rhine’s touring needs. Karin and Linford string their Lowden Acoustic Guitars with Earthwood Acoustic Guitar Strings (Ernie Ball). Thanks also to Yamaha Pianos for touring solidarity.

Finally, thanks again, heart and soul, to Joe and Ryan and all of the musical conjurers who blew the seams out of the songs and helped us make the record we couldn’t imagine in advance: Jay, David, Greg, Keefus, Levon, Patrick, Lucinda, Niki, Jean and James. Rave on.

{The Long Surrender is a Great Speckled Dog recording, designed to be played at magnificent volumes. For best results: Surrender 55 minutes of your life to the songs in full sequence/real time.}

All songs by Linford Detweiler and/or Karin Bergquist; © 2010 Ariose Music/Scampering Songs Publishing (ASCAP) (ADM. by EMI CMG Publishing) except:

“Sharpest Blade” by Karin Bergquist, Linford Detweiler and Joe Henry; © 2010 Ariose Music/Scampering Songs Publishing (ASCAP) (ADM. by EMI CMG Publishing), Chrysalis Music/Blood Count Music (ASCAP)

“Rave On” by Karin Bergquist and B.H. Fairchild; © 2010 Ariose Music/Scampering Songs Publishing (ASCAP) (ADM. by EMI CMG Publishing) Inspired by the B.H. Fairchild poem “Rave On,” Early Occult Memory Systems of the Lower Midwest (New York: W.W. Norton, 2002).

“Soon” by Karin Bergquist and Joe Henry; © 2010 Ariose Music/Scampering Songs Publishing (ASCAP) (ADM. by EMI CMG Publishing), Chrysalis Music/Blood Count Music (ASCAP)

“Days Like This” by Kim Taylor; © 2008 Don’t Darling Me (ASCAP)

Bud Scoppa interviews Linford and Karin regarding The Long Surrender. Here's a set of questions for you to respond to or ignore as you see fit. If I've missed something essential, please bring it up and address it.

Generally speaking, I’m interested in the thematic aspects of the material and the process through which it was brought to life.

THEME TOPICS:

Is The Long Surrender “about” something in particular? In this sense, what does the title intimate?

Linford: First, (just an aside) “the long surrender” is a fleeting line in a poem that Karin fell in love with by B.H. Fairchild called Rave On. Karin used the poem as a jumping off point for the song called Rave On, the third track on the record. It wasn’t so much an adaptation of the poem, more of a flirtation.

Karin: (Interestingly enough, the poem already references Buddy Holly’s song Rave On.)

Linford: And while we’re on the topic of source material, Karin also found a Bukowski poem called Bluebird, which she used as a diving board for a song on this project (There’s A Bluebird In My Heart). So apparently she’s feeling some common ground between what she wants her songs to do and what a good poem can still do to her.

I think the title speaks to our ongoing desire to let go of certain expectations (and much of what we are so convinced we know for sure) in favor of remaining open and curious.

Karin: It seems like a lot a lot of our friends are currently wrestling with various forms of “letting go,” so hopefully, the ideas conjured by the title feel somewhat universal.

And I think the title speaks to the arc of a lifelong commitment to writing and performing regardless of recognition. Learning when to work hard and when to let go. Learning to leave room for grace to billow our sails occasionally. Learning not to white-knuckle everything.

Linford: Finally, I hope The Long Surrender is a record that needs to be listened to as a complete work in order to experience the full impact of the songs. Hopefully it invites and seduces the listener to surrender 55 minutes of their life to this music, and to come up for air feeling like there has been some small shift in their world.

Do people still listen to records like that? Is that the exception? If so, then perhaps we are trying to make records for exceptional people.

Karin: Fortunately, I think much of our current and extraordinarily devoted audience is up for that approach. We are blessed in that regard.

Did you start with an overarching theme and then proceed to populate it with songs, or did the songs you were conjuring up coalesce into a theme?

Linford: Based on my own experience, I’m a believer in Flannery O’Connor’s observation about her own writing: I have to write in order for the outcome to be revealed. I can’t name where I’m going in advance. I have to write to find out.

Karin: I find myself in the same boat. Writing for me is an ongoing, necessary form of discovery/self-discovery.

Linford: I love the idea of a song revealing something unexpected to the writer first, and then of course the listener gets to share in that sense of discovery.

What specific works and/or events fed this creative explosion?

Linford: Karin and I have arrived at a point in our lives where we (and our friends) are having to bury/say goodbye to loved ones. I was called upon to write my father’s obituary a few years ago. I’ve been told that an important shift occurs when a son buries a father: one no longer sees life as something that unfolds indefinitely, rather, we tend to process things more in terms of how much time we have left.

So hopefully there is an urgency that’s felt in the songs, and a deep desire (in spite of often falling short) to make the most of whatever time we have left.

Karin: My father is deceased and my mother suffered a debilitating stroke a few years ago. She requires full-time skilled nursing care. This chapter in our lives inspired the song, Only God Can Save Us Now.

You have a way of connecting the personal with the universal, the here and now with those parts of existence that never change. Where and how does this record/these songs manifest your states of mind, your attitudes and emotions?

Linford: I still see many of the songs I write as love songs. Not necessarily proud of that, but that’s the way it is. But someone encouraged me recently that they are often not songs about falling in love – they’re songs about what happens further down the road.

Emotionally, physically, spiritually – everything is feeling a little “further down the road” at the moment. The first blush of passion dies down into something that feels more like a slow burn. I’ve disappointed friends and family and vice versa, but we still try to love each other. The romance of the road has long worn off, although we still love walking out on stage and leaning into an audience. But it seems our writing is currently more about this stage of life: commitment, endurance, resiliency, and hard-won small victories.

What are the album’s linchpin songs, and what do they represent?

Linford: I haven’t identified any linchpin songs – as all the songs on the record connect with this chapter in our lives in different ways. (We’ll comment on a number of them – use or disregard freely.)

The Laugh of Recognition – Karin: I was calling the dogs in out of two feet of snow last February (COME ON BOYS) and realized I had a song coming on. We’ve had friends that lost everything (their entire life’s work and savings) in the latest downturn – friends who worked so hard and thought they had built something that would last. We have been thinking all along that our catalog of songs and records would provide for our retirement some day and while many of our records continue to sell and support us, no one knows what will happen to the future of recorded music. So this became a song that speaks to making a new start, retaining dignity in the face of uncertainty (and getting the damn dogs to come in out of the cold when they’d rather not).

Karin: And maybe it speaks to nurturing the required patience and persistence when who and/or what we love seems hell-bent on behaving in a way that is not best for anyone involved.

Sharpest Blade: (The first song we wrote with Joe Henry. He submitted this strange and wonderful lyric, which we expanded on and wrote music for.)

Karin: Actually, there is a humorous back-story here. Linford and I are quite competitive and when Joe sent us his lyric, we each submitted music for Joe’s lyric (two separate melodies with changes) and did so anonymously so that Joe could just chose the one that he connected with most. I was certain Linford’s was better and would be selected, but Joe chose mine! I was thrilled and did my best to be a good sport about it. So, how am I doing so far? Truly, I am hoping we will use Linford’s melody with another lyric on the next project; one of us will write it I’m sure, but we may compete over that as well.

Soon: Karin: (I wrote the music and melody for this one but struggled to complete a lyric that felt relevant. I asked Joe if he was interested in taking a crack at it. He knocked out the lyric one morning before breakfast. It contains some of our favorite lines on the record including: the gift of your heart frees me from mine. JH)

Undamned: Linford: Karin: We didn’t think this song was going to make the cut but Joe had a feeling about it and sent it to Lucinda Williams. She offered (Joe asked her) to sing on it and (Lucinda) was very encouraging about the writing and Karin’s voice. Karin and I have been huge fans of Lu, so believe me, when she opened her mouth (to sing into that microphone), tears flowed. I like the fact that the song references an old hymn we used to sing called, Just As I Am… (made famous or infamous by all those tent revivals.)

Infamous Love Song: Linford: …tried to cram a lot of our personal story in this one. Right now, this verse resonates the most with where I am:

Karin: (And perhaps this is where many people in the country who are still struggling find themselves right about now?)

There’s days when we lose our appetite
And days when we’re bruised and losing the fight
Of a lifetime – days when we’re looking inside
Wondering if we’re half dead or alive

That might feel a little morose on the cold blank page, but I believe just about anyone who has attempted to commit to any enduring undertaking or relationship encounters this terrain at some point.

So I suppose these songs are ways we find to lean toward the light, not lose our way completely.

Only God Can Save Us Now: Karin: My ode to the nursing home characters we have met in the last nine years after my mother’s devastating stroke, which happened to occur on the heels of her own retirement from forty-plus years of nursing. We came to describe the nursing home as a “head on collision between comedy and tragedy.”

In our live performances, I introduce this song with a story where (along with describing some of the various characters in the song) I explain how we’ve found comedy and humor to be the grace we are given by which we learn to cope with the tragedy that we might otherwise be unable to handle.

Obviously we’ve gotten to know many of the residents there at the nursing home and have found it impossible to ignore them and their stories. And we have favorites. For example, once, when I leaned in to ask one of the residents, a little bird-like woman named Geneva, How are you today, Geneva?

She replied, Only God can save us now…

Karin: I make a point of carrying either a notebook or some handheld recording device with me, and I always have one with me when I frequent the nursing home.

The King Knows How: Karin: I had a feeling about this song and really pushed for it and the singers that Joe brought in were like a tornado of joy that whirled it into fruition.

All My Favorite People: Linford: I believe this is a song that finally arrived because it had something to teach me. Took me 5+ years to finish this one – a lot of false starts.

Your music is hard to describe in terms of genres. How would you describe your stylistic and aesthetic underpinnings?

Linford: Karin and I live on a little farm in Southern Ohio, our refuge from the road. The night skies are dark enough out here to really see the milkyway and we love to look at the moon – watch it rise when it’s full and blood orange. It is one of our favorite things really. (I know, I know, this all sounds very rock and roll.) The moon was rising the other night, casting an eerie light over everything, milky, bright. I was reminded that unlike the stars, the moon of course doesn’t generate light itself, it only reflects the light of the sun. And yet that reflected sunlight that we call moonlight is a completely different experience than the sun shining directly on us.

I tend to think of our writing like that. We’re really only reflecting what we’ve already heard – a mix of all the music we grew up with and were drawn to: old gospel hymns, the country and western music on WWVA, the rock and roll records the kids at school passed around, the symphonic music that my father brought home, the jazz musicians we discovered in college, the Great American Songbook performers that Karin’s mother used to listen to, and of course the various singer songwriters that knocked the roof off my/our world. But hopefully when this music is reflected back to the listener through the window of my own particular life, hopefully it becomes a much different experience (maybe even somewhat unique) for those with ears to hear.

On a good day I am almost fearless enough to believe that The Long Surrender is a record that only Karin and I could have made (with Joe). Any other songwriters would have walked into The Garfield House and made a much different record.

For us it’s ultimately about the songs themselves, and I love to think of songwriters perusing their record collections and not quite finding exactly what they’re looking for, and then realizing, Oh, that record that I’m not finding is the record that I’m aching to make.

How does this LP fit into your sprawling body of work? Do you view it as more of a departure? The logical next step? Your crowning achievement?

Linford: We’re not afraid of the idea that The Long Surrender is our best record to date, and a few people I trust have already expressed as much. But we’ll let others agree or disagree freely as they deem fit. That tends to keep the ongoing conversation interesting.

PROCESS TOPICS

Did you feel this group of songs demanded that you ante up the production?

Linford: Karin and I have both been actively involved in producing our own records over the years, and we feel like largely through trial and error and persistence, we have acquired some good tools in our toolbox in terms of making our records feel and sound a certain way.

With The Long Surrender, we wanted to set our own toolbox aside and venture into the unknown, get away from our familiar surroundings, make a record that we couldn’t quite imagine in advance.

Karin: The one intention that I decidedly brought with me into the recording studio was to NOT have many pre-conceived notions (i.e. expectations) about what the recording process would look like. It was a huge relief for me to let go and to trust and just try to enjoy being a part of Joe’s vision.

How did Joe’s involvement in the project come about?

Linford: We contacted Joe earlier this year and one of the first things he said was, Oh, actually, my parents have tickets to your upcoming show in Shelby, NC.

That was the beginning of an easy rapport with Joe, and we began a long correspondence with him that was a huge inspiration for Karin and I moving into this project. (In fact, I hope we can collect some of those letters together at some point and share them with our audience.)

What did you know about him and his work going in? Was there an album you particularly admired from a sonic standpoint?

Linford: We had admired Joe’s songwriting from a distance for years. There is a singularity of vision and a seriousness in his approach to his own music and writing that is alluring. When Joe had Ornette Coleman sit in on one of his songs, to me those few moments of mad beauty that ensued were the most interesting I had heard in pop music in at least a decade.

And of course when Joe produced Solomon Burke, we (and many others) sat up and began taking notice of his gifts as a producer.

Oddly enough, the record that Joe produced that moved his name to the top of our list was The Bright Mississippi by Allen Toussaint, a mostly instrumental record, and one we feel is a masterpiece.

Karin: And the recent Rodney Crowell recording that I found myself going on about just happened to be Sex and Gasoline that Joe produced. And we also loved Strange Weirdos, Joe’s collaborative record with Loudon Wainwright III…

Were there any particular albums that stood up as reference points for this endeavor?

Linford: Very few. Joe referenced Astral Weeks early on and pointed out that the songs on that record were quite traditional in nature in terms of their form, but “the seams had been blown out…”

That particular observation lodged in our imaginations like a call to arms. Yes. We were going to California to blow the seams out of our songs.

Karin: I actually recall a moment during the five-day recording session when Jay Belerose was encouraging me to express my opinion on something we had just cut. Perhaps it appeared I was withholding my thoughts – when in fact I was just so at peace with the organic musicality of the performance – I was entirely comfortable with the ensemble and the life force that it was developing. I felt really good about what was happening and was truly fascinated by our ability to become a whole and complete moving body or entity in the studio. I guess I was surprised that the whole event seemed so fulfilling. And yet so simple! Joe had been so right about the selection of players for this project. I was amazed.

What was your vision for the project, and how did it coincide with/differ from Joe’s vision?

Linford: Our vision was “to make a record that we couldn’t imagine in advance.” We wanted to be surprised. We wanted to remain open, let the record unfold in real time.

We had heard the records that Joe had been producing, but we couldn’t quite figure out in advance how that would translate to an Over the Rhine record. That was a fascinating dilemma for us.

Fortunately, Joe loves to be surprised as well. He puts most of his efforts into selecting the particular musicians he intuitively believes will be amazing together for the particular project in question. (I believe he thinks of these musicians as an extended band of brothers. His affection for each of them is beautiful to behold.)

Karin: (His respect and regard for them in an industry of dismissal and disregard is remarkable and refreshing.)

Linford: Then it feels like he gets us all in a boat together and fearlessly sets sail into unknown territory. Or maybe he puts us on a secret, after dark train that makes a previously unknown world roll by. The destination is revealed along the way.

Karin: (Either way, he makes one hell of a captain.)

Linford: But secretly, sometimes it felt like Joe wasn’t interested in making a record. I think he wanted the whole event to feel more like shooting a black and white film.

In terms of differing visions, in Joe’s words, he often favors the obtuse. Whenever something becomes too obvious or immediate, he tends to lose interest.

I on the other hand always want moments on my records and in my shows that are completely inclusive – moments where the yoke on the listener is easy, and the burden is light. I was fascinated to see Joe fearlessly steer us mostly into places that were somewhat more challenging all around.

What’s the relationship between your expectations for the record and its final form?

Karin: As mentioned above, I had few expectations and it was intentional. Although I am not a practicing Buddhist, daily I would read Pema Chodron – a Buddhist nun – to aide me in my process of letting go. I would say that it helped immensely.

Describe the experience of the week in which the album took shape.

Linford: We flew out to Pasadena Saturday evening May 15 to get our feet on the ground, get settled in. Karin and I had dinner together.

Karin: Sunday morning we had breakfast and walked around and found a bookstore that Joe had recommended called Vroman’s, and bought yet another Bukowski collection called Betting On The Muse – which is also the title of a poem that seemed to capture our mood at the time.

Linford: We met Joe for the first time for coffee that afternoon, a Sunday, and I must admit, it was a delight. Sometimes in this vagabond life there can be what feels like a dearth of “real” conversation. With Joe, that is not a problem. I believe that Joe’s preferred word for what ensued during our week of working together is “communion…”

It is not too big of a word to describe that week and the friendship and encouragement that flowed.

Karin: I was encouraged and immediately disarmed by how comfortable I felt with Joe. His warmth was infectious, and he had the substance to reinforce all of his works and reputation.

Linford: We started recording TLS at The Garfield House in South Pasadena with Joe Henry at the helm on Monday, May 17 and wrapped the following Friday afternoon. We walked away feeling like we had just experienced the week of a lifetime.

Jay Bellerose and David Piltch and Greg Leisz and Keefus Ciancia and Patrick Warren and Joe’s son, Levon, and the soul singers – (James Gilstrap, Niki Haris, Jean McClain) they were all wonderful conjurers and co-conspirators. A significant number of the tracks on the record are first takes. We landed ‘em like glistening, silvery fish, everyone playing together, Karin singing with the band for every take. Then we all sat down and ate dinner together in the evenings.

Joe presides over his espresso machine at the top of the stairs not unlike a priest at an altar.

Joe said very little in advance about how he specifically wanted the record to sound. Rather, he asked Karin and I and the musicians to watch a 1957 Italian film before we arrived: Le Notti Bianche, directed by Luchino Visconti. Sure enough, on Monday morning in South Pasadena, as if on cue, it was suddenly cool, rainy and misty, the mountains all but obscured, the colors of the world muted.

Jay Bellerose always wanted a copy of the lyrics in front of him and he wanted to be able to see Karin sing while he played. Those were his only two requests.

One other memorable image from the week: Joe cooking dinner for his family (Melanie, Levon and Lulu) in a white apron, old jazz records being piped overhead into the kitchen practically making the skillet on the stove sputter. Joe’s love for his family and their love for each other and mutual respect are certainly among the most important moments we witnessed that week.

Don’t know if the following is helpful or not: It’s an excerpt of the letter we sent out to the Over the Rhine mailing list announcing that we were going to be working with Joe Henry. We invited our listeners to pitch in to make the recording possible (for national release on our own label, Great Speckled Dog) and they fully-funded the project…

Hello extended musical family,

Might want to pour a cup of something good and settle in. You know it always takes me at least four pages to say a proper hello.

Hope you are well.

We have some big news.

Spring has come to Ohio. The grass is green, the silver maples have their leaves, our part of the earth has tilted back toward the sun, which seems to take pleasure now in drenching the house in morning light. If you stand on the porch, close your eyes, turn your face toward the sun and let it shine on your eyelids, if you breathe deeply, it feels like someone is pouring a pitcher of light directly into your soul.

The birds are drunk on spring, flirting, nesting, singing. Our lone tupelo tree has new eager buds that make it look like a candelabra full of tiny green candles. My mother says if you pay attention it’s like watching the world being created all over again right in front of your eyes.

Yes, we are feeling adventurous. (Maybe adventure is simply paying attention to the part of you that wants to be created all over again.)

We are feeling like we want to invite you along.

e have some big news.

For the first time ever, this coming May 17, Karin and I are planning to travel to the West Coast to make an Over the Rhine record. We are going to work with producer Joe Henry and an amazing cast of characters. We are going to make a record that we can’t quite imagine. Hopefully it will be a little bit strange and a little bit wonderful.

Hopefully we will, “Blow the seams out of the songs...” (JH)

One thing for sure: We are going to be surprised.

There are at least three reasons why we still want to make music:

One: We believe making music has something to do with what we were put on this earth to do. If we leave our songs alone, sooner or later they call to us until we come back to where we belong. When we live in the sweet spot of that calling, it gives others (you?) permission to discover the sweet spot of your own calling and live there.

Two: Both Karin and I have had occasion to bury loved ones. When we put loved ones in the ground, we find that we lose interest in acquiring stuff. We know we can’t take it with us when we go. No, it’s not about acquiring, rather it’s about what we are able to leave behind. That’s what gives life meaning: doing work that you can leave behind, your personal token of gratitude to the world in return for the gift of getting to be alive in it. (We believe the opportunity to make this record with Mr. Henry has everything to do with what we will leave behind.)

Three: Presence. There is a beautiful passage of scripture that made an impact on me as a child that I have never forgotten. Jesus said that if you help someone in need, someone hungry or naked or thirsty or imprisoned, if you are able to be present with them and soothe them in some way, it’s the same as if God was hungry or naked or thirsty or imprisoned and you found a way to help God.

There is so much need in this beautiful broken world it can be overwhelming. Maybe the most profoundly satisfying thing about making music for the last 20 years is we have watched people invite our music to be part of the big moments of their lives – a slow dance in the kitchen with someone who changed everything, a walk down the aisle at a wedding, a child being born... Unfortunately, big moments also occur during seasons when it feels like everything is going horribly wrong. We all need music during those dark times too – I know I do. It’s always humbling and amazing to learn that our music can be present in those too-difficult-too-imagine times. In some small way, through our music, it feels like we get to be present too, even when that is physically impossible. We get to be there in spirit.

That’s enough to keep us coming back.

That and all the sex and drugs…

I’m just kiddin’.

One dilemma with doing something creative for a long time is it can become a bit predictable. If an artist doesn’t push forward into fresh territory, doesn’t continue to risk something, doesn’t seek out new people who can teach her something unexpected, help her find a new way into the center of it, something vital begins to atrophy.

Karin and I have been writing our new songs for a good while now. I suppose many of them are understated glimpses into the people we are (so far) and the people we long to be and the difference that lies between.

Songs are little holders of ideas and images and questions that we want to remember. Sometimes the songs simply gather together some particular details of our life here on the farm. The songs teach us what we care about, and on a good day surprise us. Sometimes the new songs soothe us during our own dark moments. Sometimes they try to lend a helping hand.

Underneath our writing, there is a hunger and belief in possibility: the possibility that the “best” Over the Rhine record hasn’t been made yet. The possibility that our best work is still out there waiting for us. The possibility that we can still grow…

With this in mind, we asked ourselves, If we could make our next record with any producer/ally, someone who could help us record a project that we can’t quite imagine and envision (we want to be at least a little bit surprised as I’m sure you do), who would that person be?

We thought of some of our favorite moments on records we had heard in the last several years.

A name that quickly rose to the top of our list is songwriter and producer Joe Henry.

Joe has been quietly making records (well not that quietly, he has won at least two Grammy’s) that don’t sound like other records being made in 2010. They are a little bit dark and cinematic and funky and unpredictable. It seems like he loves to help performers who have already covered a lot of miles – people like Mavis Staples, Elvis Costello, Allen Toussaint, Solomon Burke, Louden Wainwright, Ramblin’ Jack Elliot, Mose Allison – rediscover the soul of what they do in new light.

But maybe even more importantly, Joe is a fine songwriter. We were excited about the possibility of getting his perspective on the actual writing.

Well, it’s always a long shot when you start at the top of your list, but to make a long (amazing) story short enough to fit into this letter, Joe has fully embraced the idea of helping us make this next Over the Rhine record. The ensuing conversation has been wonderful. We have discovered some friends in common, and I think we will discover even more common ground along the way as we discover the next chapter of the band together. We are even writing a song together that keeps us up at night in a good way…

”Twenty years after their recording debut, rural Ohio-based singer/songwriters Linford Detweiler and wife Karin Bergquist and their associates have delivered a set of mature, graceful and sad songs that in a just world will win them wider recognition. Working with producer Joe Henry, they use intimate, soulful arrangements to showcase Bergquist’s achingly beautiful voice.”
—USA Today


“There may be no more soothing voice in music than Karin Bergquist’s. She could be interpreting jazz standards, but fortunately she applies that balm to her and husband Linford Detweiler’s beautifully languid originals, which invoke hard times and celebrate the survival of the least fit . . . when a Lucinda Williams duet isn’t even The Long Surrender’s high point, things have gone very right.”
—Entertainment Weekly


“a marvelously evocative effort, one that recalls the torch song epiphanies of Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughn and Ella Fitzgerald . . . Sparse, sultry and yet undeniably mesmerizing, The Long Surrender is a clear victory for all concerned.”
—Blurt


“the most emotionally raw and musically nuanced [album] of the band’s fine career...Over the Rhine have pieced together a lovely, heartbreaking, and ultimately uplifting musical mosaic.”
—Paste


* * * * (out of four)
“a work as exquisitely beautiful as Van Morrison’s most graceful efforts.”
—Los Angeles Times


“Over the Rhine is one of the best husband/wife duos since Richard and Linda Thompson, and The Long Surrender proves it.”
—Ink19.com


“Over the Rhine is your introspective village preacher, lonely and open, melancholy and rejoicing, bitter and thankful.”
—Christian Science Monitor


“aggressively beautiful, like those ’60s protesters who confronted soldiers with flowers . . . it becomes useless to resist The Long Surrender.”
—Newsday