The Trumpet Child

  •   1. I Don't Wanna Waste Your Time
  •   2. Trouble
  •   3. I'm On A Roll
  •   4. Nothing Is Innocent
  •   5. The Trumpet Child
  •   6. Entertaining Thoughts
  •   7. Who'm I Kiddin' But Me
  •   8. Let's Spend The Day In Bed
  •   9. Desperate For Love
  •   10. Don't Wait For Tom
  •   11. If A Song Could Be President
1. I Don't Wanna Waste Your Time

I don’t wanna waste your time
With music you don’t need
Why should I autograph the book
That you won’t even read
I’ve got a different scar for every song
And blood left still to bleed
But I don’t wanna waste your time
With music you don’t need

I don’t wanna waste good wine
If you won’t stick around
I love to laugh but I’m more than just
Your alcoholic clown
I won’t pray this prayer with you 
Unless we both kneel down
I don’t wanna waste good wine
If you won’t stick around

Come on lighten up
Let me fill your cup
I’m just trying to imagine a situation
Where we might have a real conversation

But I don’t wanna waste the words 
That you don’t seem to need
When it comes to wanting what’s real
There’s no such thing as greed
I hope this night puts down deep roots
I hope we plant a seed
‘Cause I don’t wanna waste your time
With music you don’t need

2. Trouble

If you came to make some trouble
Better make it good
Your sexy cocktail hour stubble
Is doing what it should
Looks may be sweet and subtle
I think it’s trouble honey
I think it’s good
If you came to make trouble
Make me a double honey
I think it’s good

Novices have expectations
‘Cause they think they should
Experts have their revelations
Like they knew they would
What may seem complicated
Is overstated downright misunderstood
Love will not be outdated
Maybe placated but it’s got to be good

We’re so precarious with semantics
I think this could be trouble
I think it’s trouble honey
I think it’s good
If you came to make trouble
Make me a double honey
I think it’s good

What may seem complicated
Is overstated downright misunderstood
Love will not be outdated
Maybe placated but it’s got to be good
We’re far too serious
I think we could be 
Such nefarious pyromantics

 

3. I'm On A Roll

Black flamenco shoes
Dahlias in my hair
Garters on my stockings
The sidewalk bends to stare
I’m on a roll

Ambition may be blind 
Diamonds come from coal
You provide the rhythm babe
I’ll provide the soul 
I’m on a roll

This oyster is my world
My oyster’s got a pearl
This ain’t no dress rehearsal
I’m a very lucky girl
I’m on a roll

Tastes sweet on my lips
Tender on my tongue
All the road’s ahead of me
Oh the night is young
I’m on a roll

I’m on a roll
Just like I oughta
I’m on a roll
I can’t be bothered
I’m on a roll
I want the whole enchilada
I’m on a roll

Baby’s got his bullhorn
Confetti’s in the air
We’re shakin’ up Show Ponies
‘Cause we haven’t got a care
I’m on a roll

I’m on a roll
Just like I oughta
I’m on a roll
I can’t be bothered
I’m on a roll
Cincinnati to Ensenada
I’m on a roll
From the thrift store to Prada
I’m on a roll
La de dah…

4. Nothing Is Innocent

We’d wake the dead
With voices in our head
We’ve gotten used to ignoring the truth

We close our eyes
And breathe and eat the lies
That tell us we’re so much better than you

Silence is loud
Humility is so proud
Nothing is innocent now

All the king’s men
Will serve scrambled eggs again
When white-washed walls come crashing down

We’ll blink and nod
And say, How odd
And wonder why old friends don’t come around

Silence is loud
Humility is so proud
Nothing is innocent now

The acid rain 
We fear the pain
Will blister and burn the skin

But what is more
The fear we bore
Will eat us alive from within

Silence is loud
Humility is so proud
Nothing is innocent now

For you and me
In the land of the free
Is anything innocent now?

5. The Trumpet Child

The trumpet child will blow his horn
Will blast the sky till it’s reborn
With Gabriel’s power and Satchmo’s grace
He will surprise the human race

The trumpet he will use to blow
Is being fashioned out of fire
The mouthpiece is a glowing coal
The bell a burst of wild desire

The trumpet child will riff on love
Thelonious notes from up above
He’ll improvise a kingdom come
Accompanied by a different drum

The trumpet child will banquet here
Until the lost are truly found
A thousand days, a thousand years
Nobody knows for sure how long

The rich forget about their gold
The meek and mild are strangely bold
A lion lies beside a lamb
And licks a murderer’s outstretched hand

The trumpet child will lift a glass
His bride now leaning in at last
His final aim to fill with joy
The earth that man all but destroyed

 

6. Entertaining Thoughts

I’ve been entertaining thoughts
Of what I wanna say to you
I’ve been entertaining thoughts
Of what I’m gonna do
I’ve been saving what I got 
And wondering who to give it to
I’ve been entertaining thoughts all over you

The way this works is so mysterious
If it gets much worse it’s called delirious
If I were mad I would be furious
But this could be so much more than 
Just another euphemism for...

I’ve been entertaining thoughts
Of what I wanna say to you
I’ve been entertaining thoughts
Of what I’m gonna do
I’ve been saving what I got 
And wondering who to give it to
I’ve been entertaining thoughts all over you

You smoke your cigarette 
And wonder if it’s happened yet
The heavens slowly part and you ascend
I wish that I could say that I’ll have no regrets
But I may have one of two 
Or three or four more than you...

You will never even know 
Till it hits you fool
Ooh, but I’m entertaining thoughts
All over you

7. Who'm I Kiddin' But Me

Walk into the room with that curious grin
Ain’t nobody need to know the actual shape I’m in
But oh, who’m I kiddin’ but me

Call you on the phone, I got nothin’ to say
Put my lips a little closer and stand there anyway
‘Cause oh, who’m I kiddin’ but me

I hang from my desire 
Like a rope swing from a tree
I kick a little higher 
Singin’ I Shall Be Released
But oh, who’m I kiddin’ but me

The devil’s in the details

Call you on the phone, I got nothin’ to say
Put my lips a little closer and stand there anyway
‘Cause oh, who’m I kiddin’ but me

You smell like sweet magnolias 
And Pentecostal residue
I’d like to get to know ya 
And shake the holy fire right out of you
But oh, who’m I kiddin’ but me

The devil’s in the details

8. Let's Spend The Day In Bed

Let’s spend the day in bed
Yeah that’s what I said
Let’s lie down draw the shades
Ditch the plans we made
Rest your lovely bones 
And just stay home

Turn off the telephone
Picnic on the sheets
Toss the dogs some treats
Rub each other’s feet
We’re not ashamed
Of a little lazy love
Till we’re through
I’m gonna spend the day in bed with you

Let’s spend the day in bed
On our very own bed spread
A pajama holiday
Catch a black and white matinee
Spoon-feed these new daydreams 
And just stay home

We’ll read Shel Silverstein
Where The Sidewalk Ends
Smile about old friends
Try to comprehend
One single day
No work and only play
Kick off your shoes
I’m gonna spend the day in bed with you

When life’s a drag we’ll get stoned on love
Stoned on love
Just stay home

We need a groove that’s all our own
And we’ll get stoned
Just stay home
We’ll get stoned on love
Stoned on love

Let’s spend the day in bed
Forget all that I said
We’ll eat your favorite pie
Ice cream on the side
Lie here a la mode
And just stay home

 

9. Desperate For Love

Are you feelin’
A little desperate
Get on your knees
And confess it
Honey please
Don’t second guess it
You’re desperate
For love

Is this just 
A little fling
Or is it about
A little bling bling
Either way
You feel the sting sting
You’re desperate
For love

It might only take a kiss
For the plot to take a twist
That you hadn’t counted on

Just a tiny little minute
But eternity will be in it
If you turn me on

Red wine on my lips
Got this black silk slip on my hips
The kitchen faucet just drips and drips
You’re desperate for love

 

10. Don't Wait For Tom

He’s got the hands of a blind piano player
He’s got a feel for the dark like a soothsayer
He takes a little bow and tips his fedora
Shouts like he’s gonna save Sodom and Gomorrah

Workin’ for the circus X railroad bum
Carnival barker for kingdom dot come
Dusty ol’ Gibson opposable thumb
Bangs out the rhythm on a 50-gallon drum

Don’t wait for Tom
Tom’s long gone
He’s already moved on
Don’t wait for Tom
I saw an ol’ ’55 Buick
Just before dawn
I said, Hey, hey Tom
The sun’s comin’ up 
You got your wipers on

Are you tryna make it rain again?
Are you tryna make it rain again? 
Is it rainin’ just around your bend?
Are you tryna make it rain again?

Sittin’ in a corner with his pet muskrat
Tossin’ his cards into an old man’s hat
He grins at the girls and they always grin back
He bets an old waltz he could get ‘em in the sack

He makes his own music from the bell of a ‘bone
A waitress’s falsie and a railroad phone
Bobs on his knees to an old tarantella
South of the border he stole it from a fella

Don’t wait for Tom…

His triple-jointed juke fingers splay like a scarecrow
He kneels down and whistles to a fallen sparrow
His eyes light up when they wheel in a piano
He reads a dirty joke out of an old Baptist hymnal

He wears a tuxedo made of sackcloth and ashes
Has a tattoo of a girl who can bat her eyelashes
Down on the river he was fishin’ with a sword
He knocked off John the Baptist for a word from the Lord

He takes his coffee with the blood of a turnip
Blushes his cheeks with an Amsterdam tulip
Choppin’ up a rooster for a pullet surprise
If the gravy don’t getcha he’ll getcha with his eyes

Hey Tom

11. If A Song Could Be President

If a song could be president
We’d hum on Election Day
The gospel choir would start to sway
And we’d all have a part to play

The first lady would free her hips
Pull a microphone to her lips
Break our hearts with Rhythm and Blues
Steve Earle would anchor the news

We’d vote for a melody
Pass it around on an MP3
All our best foreign policy
Would be built on harmony

If a song could be president
We’d fly a jukebox to the moon
All our founding fathers’ 45’s
Lightnin’ Hopkins and Patsy Cline
If a song could be president

If a song could be president
We could all add another verse
Life would teach us to rehearse
Till we found a key change

Break out of this minor key
Half-truths and hypocrisy
We wouldn’t need an underachiever-in-chief
If a song could be president

We’d make Neil Young a Senator
Even though he came from Canada
Emmylou would be Ambassador
World leaders would listen to her

They would show us where our country went wrong
Strum their guitars on the White House lawn
John Prine would run the FBI
All the criminals would laugh and cry
If a song could be president

A Dream I Had

The sun is coming up, the party is over, and everybody wandered on outta here (or curled up and fell asleep in a shadowy corner) and I’m afraid this old Smith Corona pica typewriter is just going to make a clackety-clack racket, the bell ringing at the end of every line like the end of each round in a boxing ring, my heart taking a beating with the bliss of it all, an evening of underground cabaret that began at 5pm and turned into an all-night affair, sleeves rolled up, it seems we seldom came up for air, a group of friends passing around musical instruments into the wee hours, the sound of our holy laughter and that familiar voice (I know that voice) singing words and vowels, cussing consonants, leaning into the RCA microphone, the saxophones and clarinets blowing through these songs to mourn the still-ravaged streets of New Orleans, to resurrect the lost hymns of our childhood, the hymns with the names that taught us words could be beautiful: Softly and Tenderly, Let the Lower Lights Be Burning, When the Roll is Called Up Yonder.

And a theme that recurred in a lot of the old hymns was the idea that the world would be reborn with the sound of a trumpet, and we’ve all heard those great American trumpet (and horn) players—Louis Armstrong, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Stan Getz—and we’ve been wondering about the sound of that trumpet in the old hymns, Is it real, Is it a metaphor, What, exactly, is on God’s iPod?

And me, my first memory, the sound of a trumpet at a tent meeting revival, I was sitting on my mother’s lap, I remember that bright brass bell, that eggtooth blast waking me up, snapping the world into focus, piercing the womb of distant muffled things, stirring my conscious mind, the sound of a trumpet! and I remember the small wooden stage at the front of the tent, strings of bare lightbulbs, my sister Grace’s braids, and me forming my first real thought: I need to be where the sound is coming from.

And so Brad Jones scoured the broken-bottle-strewn back alleyways of Nashville and found an arresting array of misfit co-conspirators, one (Neil) walking with a cane (a muted trumpet in the other hand), one (Jim) a jazz ensemble unto himself trapped in a single pair of shoes (a bass clarinet poking out of his handbag), and Chris and David with an armload of stringed instruments. And life slipped us a Mickey, a drummer who’s not afraid to rattle a tire chain or shake a quart of Quaker State 10W30 near an old Shure microphone, and Brad would pick up any one of his hollow body basses, and we threw this party, and we played these songs, and others made welcome appearances, Tony, Devon, Rick, Matt, Lindsay, Byron, and it got late, later, and we kept playing, and the sun came up, and this typewriter is making a bloody-mary-for-breakfast racket, and I don’t have anything left to say, I left it all in the piano, or pulled it out of a nylon string acoustic, or leaned on the singer who was drunk on it, tangled up in it, messy, we left it all on the studio floor.

And we were caught up in the joy of it, that’s all, that’s the way it’s supposed to be, caught up in the undeniable sadness and crazy joy of it, who cares if it’s a dog and monkey show at the end of the day, because some nights you can’t help but believe in a God who wants to get inside the song itself, it doesn’t matter if it’s an old country tune Patsy Cline is singing on an old jukebox, it doesn’t matter if it’s Lightnin’ Hopkins grumbling over a timeless blues riff, it could be Satchmo, the dignity of his voice and the joy in his horn, it could be Tom Waits kicking up the dust on the hardwood floor of a grange hall at some imaginary revival meeting, but what ultimately keeps us all coming back is the mystery of the song itself, God bless you, thank you, why not?

So we hope you like the songs, we hope they unfold like an underground evening of lost midwestern cabaret, a little private party good enough to last the night and longer, the sound of a trumpet to wake your world.

Turn it up.

Linford Detweiler, June, 2007

1. I Don’t Wanna Waste Your Time
(Words and Music: Detweiler)
KARIN BERGQUIST: Voice.
LINFORD DETWEILER: Piano.
BRAD JONES: Upright Bass.
NEIL ROSENGARDEN: Trumpet, Valve Trombone.
JIM HOKE: Saxophones.
MICKEY GRIMM: Drum Kit.

2. Trouble
(Words and Music: Bergquist)
KARIN BERGQUIST: Nylon String Acoustic Guitar, Voice.
LINFORD DETWEILER: Piano.
BRAD JONES: Upright Bass, Percussion, Bass Harmonica.
DAVID HENRY: Cellos.
DEVON ASHLEY: Drum Kit.
MICKEY GRIMM: Drum Kit, Percussion.

3. I’m On A Roll
(Words and Music: Bergquist/Detweiler)
KARIN BERGQUIST: Voice.
LINFORD DETWEILER: Acoustic Guitar, Vibes.
BRAD JONES: Upright Bass.
TONY PAOLETTA: Goldklang Slide.
DEVON ASHLEY: Drum Kit, Percussion.
MICKEY GRIMM: Drum Kit, Percussion.

4. Nothing Is Innocent
(Words and Music: Bergquist/Detweiler)
KARIN BERGQUIST: Voice.
LINFORD DETWEILER: Nylon String Acoustic Guitar.
BRAD JONES: Upright Bass, Chamberlin.
TONY PAOLETTA: Pedal Steel.
CHRIS CARMICHAEL: Violin.
MICKEY GRIMM: Drum Kit.
JIM HOKE: Alto Flute, Vibes.

5. the Trumpet Child
(Words and Music: Detweiler)
KARIN BERGQUIST: Voice.
LINFORD DETWEILER: Piano.
BYRON HOUSE: Upright Bass.
JIM HOKE: Saxophones.
NEIL ROSENGARDEN: Trumpet, Muted Trumpets.

6. Entertaining Thoughts
(Words and Music: Bergquist)
KARIN BERGQUIST: Voice.
LINFORD DETWEILER: Acoustic Guitar.
BRAD JONES: Bass, Electric Guitars, Harmonium, Organ.
RICK PLANT: Slide Guitar.
LINDSAY JAMIESON: Drum Kit, Percussion.

7. Who’m I Kiddin’ But Me
(Words and Music: Bergquist)
KARIN BERGQUIST: Acoustic Guitar, Voice.
LINFORD DETWEILER: Wurlitzer Electric Piano.
BRAD JONES: Bass, Swampy Slide.
MICKEY GRIMM: Drums, Percussion, 10W30.

8. Let’s Spend The Day In Bed
(Words and Music: Bergquist/Detweiler)
KARIN BERGQUIST: Voice.
BRAD JONES: Bass, Electric Guitar.
LINFORD DETWEILER: Acoustic Guitar, Piano,
Wurlitzer Electric Piano, Rhodes, Hammond Organ.
CHRIS CARMICHAEL: Cello, Viola, Violin.
MATT SLOCUM: Electric Guitar.
LINDSAY JAMIESON: Drum Kit, Percussion.

9. Desperate For Love
(Words and Music: Detweiler)
KARIN BERGQUIST: Voice.
LINFORD DETWEILER: Piano.
CHRIS CARMICHAEL: Cello.
JIM HOKE: Clarinets.

10. Don’t Wait For Tom
(Words and Music: Detweiler)
KARIN BERGQUIST: Voice.
LINFORD DETWEILER: Tack Piano, Voice.
BRAD JONES: Bass.
TONY PAOLETTA: Pedal Steel.
JIM HOKE: Bass Clarinet.
LINDSAY JAMIESON: Drum Kit.
MICKEY GRIMM: Percussion.

11. If A Song Could Be President
(Words and Music: Detweiler)
KARIN BERGQUIST: Voice.
LINFORD DETWEILER: Acoustic Guitar, Hammond Organ, Harmony Vocal.
BRAD JONES: Bass, Chamberlin.
TONY PAOLETTA: Pedal Steel.
MICKEY GRIMM: Drum Kit.

ALL SONGS PUBLISHED BY SCAMPERING SONGS PUBLISHING (ASCAP). ADMINISTERED BY BUG.

THIS IS A GREAT SPECKLED DOG RECORDING.
PRODUCED BY BRAD JONES.
RECORDED AND MIXED BY BRAD JONES AT ALEX THE GREAT, NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE.
ADDITIONAL RECORDING BY PETER HICKS AT NOWHERE FARM.
BLESSING OF THE WIRES: PAUL MAHERN.
MASTERED BY ROGER SEIBEL AT SAE MASTERING,
PHOENIX, ARIZONA.
ILLUSTRATION AND DESIGN BY MADHOUSE, PERRYSBURG, OHIO,
AND ROB & AMY SEIFFERT.
PHOTOGRAPHY BY MICHAEL WILSON.
BOOKING: MARK LOURIE AT SKYLINE MUSIC.
(MARK@SKYLINEONLINE.COM)
TOUR MANAGEMENT AND MUCH MORE: BRANDON DAWSON.
LIVE SOUND: DAVE FOREMAN.

THANKS TO MICKEY AND JAKE FOR THEIR WILLINGNESS TO PLAY THESE SONGS WITH US ALL OVER THE WORLD.
THANKS TO OUR FAMILIES, FRIENDS AND EXTENDED MUSICAL FAMILY: WITHOUT YOU WE’D BE HOMELESS.

Linford and Karin's song by song commentary will be posted in September.

The following is excerpted from an interview with Reid Davis.

The last few records have been animated by something of a theme, even though there are departures. Ohio dug into your roots (and expanded your sound in the process); Drunkard’s Prayer was basically the anatomy of rescuing a marriage (with a copacetic, candles-lit, evening-at-home sort of sound). Are there similar big ideas driving this song cycle?

And if so, can you spell those out?

Well believe it or not, when Paste Magazine surprised us by including us in a list of 100 Greatest Living Songwriters, it was a timely vote of confidence. I think it gave us permission on this project to celebrate the fact unapolgetically that we love a good song, period.

It could be an old country tune that Patsy Cline is singing on an old juke box in one of our favorite dives in Kentucky, it could be Lightnin’ Hopkins grumbling over a timeless blues riff, it could be Satchmo, the dignity of his voice and the joy in his horn, it could be Tom Waits kickin’ up the dust on the hardwood floor of a grange hall at some imaginary revival meeting – it can be all over the map musically -- but what ultimately keeps us interested is the mystery of the song itself.

So musically, we really wanted to open the American songbook a bit wider on this project, reference a pre-rock-n-roll era, reference our love for some of America’s great jazz musicians. So this record is really about celebrating and filtering/refracting through Over the Rhine a wide spectrum of American music. We wanted it to feel like an underground cabaret performance of some kind, like an evening/night unfolding. And we wanted to be bold and actually give shout-outs to some of our musical heroes on this project, speak their names in the context of a song.

When Karin and I were first starting Over the Rhine, we had a wknd gig at a fancy hotel (The Cincinnatian) playing old standards. We worked up many of our own little odd versions of Cole Porter tunes, Frank Loesser, Rodgers and Hart, The Gershwins etc. I think we’re owning up to some of that influence a bit more on this project.

And I think we felt we could lighten up a bit after Drunkard’s Prayer. Hence the playfulness of tunes like “Trouble”, “I’m On A Roll”, “Let’s Spend the Day in Bed” etc.

And as far as themes other than the musical themes above, I think we returned on this project to the quintessential stuff that has always interested us in our writing: spirituality, sexuality, living vividly, challenging the status quo, subtly taking power away from those that have too much and transferring it to people who have too little.

Describe the writing process for this album. What were the settings? The inspirations? (Drunkard’s Prayer was obviously written mostly at home; this one I can’t quite put my finger on.)

I think it was very integrated: the songs were written on the road, on the porch swing, in the shower, at the piano here at the farm, in the rooms we wake up in and walk around in everyday… On a few songs it seems like I’d be playing a little something on the guitar and Karin would record it and very quickly finish a song that pretty much made my mouth water.

What kind of effect has “country life” had on your work? Is it the effect you’d imagined?

I think we’re both just more chilled out and relaxed. The mix of touring city to city with 8 people traveling together in an intensely communal way of life, putting a show on every evening etc, and then coming home to our own private 100 years of solitude is a great balance. I mean we are alone out here! But Karin and I can throw a great party with just the two of us.

What was the biggest surprise in the process of writing and recording The Trumpet Child? And/or, perhaps, the grandest bit of serendipity?

Our tour manager said he could point to every song on the record and tell us exactly what was happening in our lives when we wrote it: I’m On A Roll – we were in NZ together. I Don’t Wanna Waste Your Time – that came from the conversation you had with Juicy. Don’t Wait For Tom – you wrote that the morning after we saw Tom Waits together in Louisville!

So maybe it’s just the fact that these songs are inseparable from who we are/this stage of our lives.

There are lots of great instrumental contributions on this record beyond the standard guitars/bass/drums/keys components. What caused you to go this route, and how did you find the players?

Among the knockout instrumental performances: the muted trumpet on “The Trumpet Child,” the speakeasy-style clarinet on “Desperate For Love,” the lazy slide guitar on “Entertaining Thoughts” -- any you wish to spotlight?

The muted trumpet – you have no idea what we went through to get that! Brad Jones recruited a number of underground horn players etc – musicians that had been transported from NYC or Los Angeles to Nashville – mostly colorful, misfit older fellows, jazz musicians. Neil came in walking with a cane, asked for a glass of water, dumped a cocktail of pain meds into his palm, down the hatch, then listened to the song and went and smoked a joint. It seemed in some ways like he was barely functioning, and Karin said, We’ve got to get him playing and out of here before he comes down! But he played some great tidbits, heartbroken, simple, heart-still-beating in spite of it all riffs.

The clarinet was played by Jim Hoke, a one-man, walking, virtuoso ensemble wearing one pair of shoes. We had been stunned by the whole Katrina debacle in New Orleans, and that too was a big part of why we wanted horns and clarinets to be blowing through this music.

And perhaps the inevitable question at this point: what were the major literary influences this time around?

I only read one book the whole time: MOBY DICK, illustrated by Rockwell Kent, from cover to cover for the first time. Great book to read while trying to hunt down the best record we’ve ever made. You have to believe that it can happen, or it’s over. Karin read several fiction writers and dipped into various B.H. Fairchild poems, but talked mostly about a recent memoir by Ellen Burstyn, Lessons in Becoming Myself.

About particular songs:

“I Don’t Wanna Waste Your Time” begins with a New Orleans-style brass-ensemble intro. Not beginning with a guitar or piano makes this seem like a conscious move to make this record something different for you. True? Also, this song seems like a bit of a manifesto for you at this point in your career—if it don’t Truly Matter, you ain’t playin’. Care to unpack that a bit?

Yep, see the song notes for the back story on it. We’re not kids anymore, our music supports several families – great guys with kids that work for us and tour with us. And there’s so much music out there to choose from. And Karin just turned 40, we’re not kids. Believe me, we don’t want to waste anybody’s time. Every song has to be good, every record has to be great, every concert has to have some spiritual significance, something that we can’t quantify, something bigger than all of us.

Or forget it. I'll go work a straight job.

What is “The Trumpet Child” about? It’s obviously a comment on the apocalypse, redemption and the necessity of justice, but there may be a reference there I’m missing. Possible to say who The Trumpet Child is? A reference, perhaps, to “a little child shall lead them?”

I love that last reference. Hadn’t even thought of that. I wrote those words pretty much in one sitting, typical iambic stuff, and line by line I just pretty much copied it on the page. I’d like to think I was in the right place at the right time. See the song notes for more. I’ve written quite a few songs and I think “With Gabriel’s power and Satchmo’s grace…” is the best line I’ve ever had anything to do with.

If the Atlanta show is any indication, “If A Song Could Be President” is destined to become a crowd-pleaser, and possibly even some kind of hit. Plus, it’s the closest you’ve come to making some kind of political statement, and is thus a different sort of song for you. Story, please?

We’ve written protest songs in the past. There’s a song on Drunkard’s Prayer called Spark that has the line “What you think you’ll solve with violence will only spread like a disease until it all comes ‘round again.” Someone sent us a picture: they had spray-painted that lyric in bold black letters on the apartheid wall in Palestine (Bethlehem).

“How Long Have You Been Stoned” on Ohio was a direct response to George Bush having the ear of the world post 9/11, and coming back with, “We’re gonna smoke ‘em out, we’re gonna get the evildoers.” Which after we turned off the tv, in a moment of cynicism, made us wonder what he had been smoking to come up with this bit of eloquence to fill such a pregnant pause in the world.

“Changes Come” on OHIO is a political statement and more, about the questionable wisdom of bringing a child into this world etc.

“Nothing is Innocent” is social commentary that will hopefully help give people permission not to live in fear.

“If A Song Could Be President” – you can see the notes. It’s just a little idea that took off, and again, it’s just weird fun to be singing names like Steve Earle, John Prine, Neil Young, Emmylou, Lightnin’ Hopkins etc.

“Don’t Wait For Tom” is about as left-field as you’ve gotten since “Jack’s Valentine.” The song is obviously Tom Waits-ian in its composition and arrangement, which begs the question: is even the title a reference to the gravel-voiced bard? (And whether or not that’s true...) where the heck did this one come from?

Just poured out the morning after seeing him perform live for the second time. The working subtitle was (Tom Waits For You)… Tried to squeeze some references in there to him and his music: Fishin’ with a sword (Swordfish Trombones), I saw an Ol’ 55 Buick (Me and My Ol’ 55), Are you tryna make it rain (Make it Rain) etc. We’re fans, that’s all. And “Choppin’ up a rooster for pullet surprise” – just seems like somethin’ Tom would serve up for dinner…

Were you already relocated to Nowhere Farm when Drunkard’s Prayer was written?)

*No, that was our Grey Ghost swan song – the last music we made in the first house Karin and I bought together after we were married.

Tell me how you connected with Brad Jones. Was there a moment where you said to yourself, “This is going to work”?

*I first heard Brad’s bass playing on records that Mitchell Froom was producing (Ron Sexsmith, Whereabouts is a great example) and I kept thinking to myself, This bass player is better than Paul McCartney. Than I heard some of the records Brad had produced with Josh Rouse (1972, Nashville etc) and I thought Brad had done such a great job of taking Josh so much further musically than the typical singer-songwriter-strumming-acoustic-guitar approach.

I think we knew we were on to something special when we saw Brad sketch out the instrumental arrangement on “Nothing is Innocent” – he heard that alto flute and those strings in his head before anyone played a note… Brad’s a bit of a mad-scientist, and a very special musician. It was a thrill for me just to sit back and watch him play bass for starters.

At this point in your career, you’ve worked with a number of different producers and recorded in lots of different settings. How does this experience compare to where you’ve been in the past?

*Brad is by far the most meticulous in his approach. He started with having us play each song, and we worked through the form of each song carefully. Talk about Ockham’s Razor! He was brilliant at cutting away fluff, keeping things focused, succinct.

Brad is also very into arranging – more so than any producer we’ve worked with. Typically Karin and I do the arrangements. It was great fun to collaborate more, and occasionally just stay out of the way and let him work his magic.

Also, it’s interesting (now that I think about it) that you haven’t returned to record with, say, Trina Shoemaker, or Mahan Kalpa. (This, in contrast to other acts, where longtime producers almost become adjunct group members.) Why the changes with each project?

*Oh shit, this is a case of Over the Rhine being too esoteric for our own good. Mahan Kalpa is Paul Mahern. We’ve worked with him on OHIO, Drunkard’s Prayer, Live From Nowhere Vols. 1 & 2 and Snow Angels which will be released nationally later this year. Paul is great for us, very spontaneous, intuitive, doesn’t overthink anything. (Mahan Kalpa is his spiritual name – Paul is very into Kundalini Yoga, and sometimes only wants to be referenced as MK.)

We worked with a friend named Tim McAllister on our first two records, then Trina, then when we first left IRS we went the self-producing route for a good while – the whole Good Dog Bad Dog, Darkest Night era. It’s not by design – we’re just following our noses. We worked with Brad on the single (Last Night on Earth Again) for Discount Fireworks (A Collection), then The Trumpet Child, and he also co-produced Snow Angels. So when it works, we definitely stick around.

For Karin specifically:

Having sung professionally for more than 15 years now, how has your approach changed since the days of, say “Fly Dance” and “Like A Radio?” What have you learned about your voice and your emotional connection to the music, and how did you apply that on The Trumpet Child?

My technical approach has changed immeasurably. I’m the first one to admit I had no idea what I was doing when I started singing for the band. That was part of the beauty of that era. I was very young and inexperienced. But fortunately, I was uninhibited enough to try.

My emotional connection to music has remained fairly consistent over the years although it has evolved as I have evolved.

On the one hand, I’m either into it or I’m not because there’s no faking it with me. Life’s way too short for that. And I really appreciate the kind of singer that has that cool cucumber sort of approach to music – like an Aimee Mann for example (whose music and singing I love, by the way) an approach that seems slightly removed emotionally from their songs like a third person narrative, but I’ve never been able to do that. And I’ve tried on some recordings, but unsuccessfully in my opinion.

I’m more lost in it. More drunk on it. Far more out of control about it. Messy, juicy and tangled up. I had to make peace with that too. It didn’t happen for me until the OHIO sessions with Paul Mahern and I highly credit him for much of my ‘coming into my own’ during that time.

Before Paul, (or B.P. as I like to say), I was unintentionally playing it a bit safe at times. I had all this stuff bottled up and I was afraid that if I let it out (even musically) I’d be laughed at or God-forbid, misunderstood. I thought that everyone out there in the audience might see what a real human being I truly was. And that would have been a disaster for me. Silly, huh?

Thankfully, and I have a lot to be grateful for, I’ve learned and am continuing to learn how to let it go, get it all out, and not hold back. Paul likes to remind us, We are Infinite. I interpret that this way: it takes more than just one moment in time define who you are – to make or break you. It’s so much bigger than that.

That is what I’m learning about my voice and my evolving emotional connection to our music. And yes, it’s all over The Trumpet Child. Can’t you hear it?

What is your favorite moment, personally, on this particular record? (And why?)

There are so many. Working with Brad Jones was fun and inspiring for me. He’s a monster player and makes beautiful arrangements as well. When I heard the sweeping strings on Trouble and Nothing Is Innocent, I was absolutely thrilled. The most fun I had was during the recording of Who’m I Kiddin’ But Me when Brad and Mickey and I set up in the studio. I played it through for them once, said there were basically three parts to the song, A, B and C – you can hear me say, Here comes the C – and we snagged it on the first take. I played with an alternate tuning and sang into an old beat up Shure ribbon mic. It was rough around the edges and we loved it.

What excites you most about getting this project out to the public, and your fans?

Having a great band and crew to work and tour with on a daily basis. I’m a lucky (blessed) woman.

>>

Linford, what, in your opinion, is the “job” of your art? Or, if that sounds too utilitarian, what does it mean to you when a song is “successful” or a performance is “successful?”

My job description is to create spaces where beauty can move and breathe and have its being. I long to give the world something beautiful as a token of my appreciation for the gift of being alive in it. A song is successful when people feel a chemical reaction on their skin. A concert is successful when people walk away feeling more alive, more energized, full of the suspicion that life is an immense gift, and the belief that they can do some good work, have a rewarding life, write their own story with an exciting mixture of care and abandon, find their own ways of saying thank you, write their names on something beautiful.

* One of things that was obvious to someone like me who’s observed your career almost from day one is how hard (and deliberately) you worked to avoid being pigeonholed. Why was this necessary?

If people have labels, they don’t necessarily have to make time for stories, and I wanted to get caught up in stories, taking care to write a life story that I could live with, a true story.

I wanted the opportunity to have a real conversation with folks who found our music.

* Would you mind unpacking, for me, why even though you and Karin both grew up around a lot of old hymns and religious gatherings, you’ve obviously never felt called to do “church music” or “worship music?”

I do write and perform worship music. So does Van Morrison. So does U2 and Coldplay and Bob Dylan and The Band and John Coltrane and Gillian Welch and John Prine and John Lennon and Bruce Springsteen and Sufjan Stephens and Emmylou Harris and Bill Mallonee and Martha Wainwright and Rufus Wainwright and countless others. So does anyone who’s crying out in their own voice. A good song is often a prayer.

* It seems many of your recurring themes are a specific outgrowth of your faith— the longing for justice; the subtle exhortation (perhaps even to yourselves?) to live deliberate lives; the way you seek to assertively reclaim sexuality from the cultural forces that cheapen and abuse it. Would you mind connecting the dots as much as you can between your faith and what you write about?

I write about what matters to me. I try to find fresh language for what I believe matters most in life.

* Are there any scriptural passages you come back to repeatedly as you think and pray about your role as an artist?

Our sound engineer is an Irish Catholic and so he sometimes reads aloud to us from his prayer book when we’re on the road, and obviously there are lots of passages from The Psalms, and we’re always somewhat shocked and amused at all these calls to sing a new song, to make a noise of some kind -- try to stir up some joy, to be happy and sing about it, to cry out, join in, get caught up in something that’s already happening all around us... And I always think, OK, we can do that. We can sing a new song. I’ve got one right here.

We’ve been joking about the music that’s on God’s iPod. I’ve been asking our audiences, What exactly is on God’s iPod? Someone recently yelled back, Over the Rhine. So there’s my self-imposed dream job description: I try to write music for God’s iPod.

“The Trumpet Child is the best record of Over the Rhine’s career, and I’m happy to go on record saying as much. After my first few listens, what I find most striking is the sense of Friday-at-5pm bliss, the sleeves-up fun of friends hanging out and playing just one more tune...
(Seriously this time, last one.)”

Jason Killingsworth, Music Editor, Paste Magazine