April 24, 2006
P.O. Box 12078
Cincinnati, OH 45212
Springtime. Hope all is well. Thought we’d pass along a little overdue news from Nowhere. (Might want to get comfortable: it’s a long one. If you just want the Over the Rhine tour dates, skip to the end.)
First, here’s the part that was written in March:
We’re home again, sitting at the dining room table after breakfast, putting a few words to paper. Had a cup of Karin’s strong coffee, scrambled a pan full of eggs, toasted some whole grain bread, raspberry jam, glass of cranberry juice, the usual. Elroy is curled up asleep after his morning walk. A couple of the neighbor dogs were poking around in the maple grove, and he tore over there to say hello and make sure all was well. A little tail waggin’ in the morning…
(Aralee said that Elroy caught his first rabbit while we were away. A big one. She tossed it in the garden. Next day the cloak and dagger turkey buzzards arrived from the top story of the sky and left nothing but the backbone. We can’t walk on the paths without a cottontail darting off somewhere.)
We came back from New Zealand to find the silvery limbs of the old maples rouged with fuzzy buds. In fact as you look out across the fields, all the tree lines are rosy cheek red with expectation. Winter dumped three inches of snow on the farm to celebrate the arrival of the first day of spring – daffodils blooming in the snow – but I don’t think it will last through this day. My father said they used to call that a sugar snow – those late snowfalls that would come during maple syrup season.
And the birds are returning for real: robusty robins everywhere, the rusty hinge conversations of the grackles, starlings chuckling like old Tom Waits himself, the whistles and unwinding asides of the redwing blackbirds. Kildeer feigning alarm in the open fields, practicing their distractions for later when their ground nests are full of young. Cardinals singing a new song, a song they’d never sing in the winter.
Haven’t heard the bobwhite yet this spring. I’m afraid the hawks were awfully hard on them this winter.
I saw the first redwing blackbird in one of the locust trees next to the garden the day before spring. Impeccable timing. I think the redwing is my favorite. We come back from tour, the redwing comes back from God knows where. Those wings dipped in bright paint.
So New Zealand. Packing our bags at the farm for our first real trip of the year, Brandon dropping us off at the airport… (The crew and band will catch up with us in a few days.) The flight to Los Angeles: I’m thinking a nice nap will be just what the doctor ordered, but then we hear the movie is Walk the Line and we can’t help but watch. (I remember reading The Man in Black before I was a teenager.) Karin and I process how fortunate we are to be able to travel together making music we can call our own.
We meet up with Glen our manager at good ol’ LAX, and then the long flight over the ocean. (My Mother, when I said goodbye on the phone, couldn’t help wondering aloud how many planes were lying at the bottom of the Pacific.) Each passenger on Air New Zealand had his or her own movie library available with headphones etc, so we watched Anthony Hopkins in The World’s Fastest Indian and then most of Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride. Then slept as long as we could.
Our time in New Zealand felt charmed from beginning to end. It was one of those trips that made us look back and think, We’re glad we didn’t give up, or none of this would have happened. A few firsts: We had never before arrived in a foreign country on tour and heard our music playing in the International Airport when we arrived. Same when we departed. Drunkard’s Prayer was number one on the “Heatseekers” chart and one of the top 20 records overall in the country. (We couldn’t recall ever having a record at the top of any sales chart.) And we had never before played four consecutive SOLD OUT shows in one city, let alone beautiful Wellington.
Our first stop was Auckland. Thierry and Rae at EMI NZ rented us a great little apartment above an airy and sunny cafe on Ponsonby Road across from a sprawling city park with trees that looked like they were fertilized with fairy tales. We arrived early in the morning after 24 hours of traveling, but we knew we would stay up and drink cafe coffee and have breakfast and explore until the sun went down. Thierry and Rae kept us busy the next few days doing interviews and radio and TV etc, and we did a little invitation only gig (just Karin and I) that was taped for the New Zealand equivalent of VH-1.
Then we headed up to Keri Keri to meet Rick and Devon and Brandon and Dave. Everybody had arrived safely so we strolled into town together and Dave said, I forgot my rosary – I’m just going to look for a used book store and get some much needed solitude. But then somehow he took a left turn and ended up at the pub where like Dylan Thomas himself, he had half the sweet intoxicated town gathered around singing and telling stories and still whooping it up long after the sun went down. Fisherman pulling fresh lobster off the truck to broil for the spontaneous American, bartenders slipping home to get their acoustic instruments so they could join in… We only heard the rumors, but later realized that just about everyone in Keri Keri was on a first name basis with our sound engineer.
The next day someone was kind enough to loan us their beach house on a remote, secluded bit of sea with bold rock outcroppings and Pahootakowa (sp?) trees big as our farm house back home. We ran headlong into the late summer ocean and combed the sand for heart-shaped rocks and other unexpected bits of underwater artwork. We cooked a meal for each other, having stocked up on supplies earlier in the day, Brandon at the grill. After dark we looked at the sky and saw that the moon was waxing fuller on the opposite side from what we were used to and the stars were not the same stars we saw at home in Ohio, Orion’s sword at an odd angle, or maybe that’s not Orion.
In the morning some of us ran along a river trail in the Keri Keri woods and heard birds crying out that we had never heard before.
That evening we played our first New Zealand concert with the band. The songs had found themselves a home, far from home. People gave out little cheers when we started one that they were looking forward to hearing performed for the very first time. Great grin factor and wonderful to enjoy the fruit of good labor.
Then onto the little plane headed south in the morning and dropping into the windy Wellington airport… (The locals coached us: it’s pronounced Wundy Willington.) Our hotel on the water overlooking sailboats bobbing up and down… The Wellington International Arts Festival in full swing, Spanish flamenco dancers, French trapeze artists, actors and musicians from around the world mingling late at night, and some of the best wine in the world (New Zealand’s finest whites and big reds being passed around free as a hand shake…)
And those French trapeze artists, gathering around Karin wanting to buy her champagne: what’s up with that? I never knew that Karin singing, Swing me on your trapeze, could be so problematic.
We met many lovely people, and we look forward to returning as soon as we are able – maybe for one of those winery tours we’ve been talking about. Special thanks to Thierry and Rae for their hard work and generous spirits. And to Carla and the festival organizers who made us feel so welcome.
A good life: Believe in what you do, and do it.
But now it’s April on the farm, another gorgeous day in April, it’s not supposed to be this gorgeous. I took my first outdoor shower beneath the cherry tree beneath blossoms once again. But the apple tree in the front yard is waving around in the wind like a big calico dress stealing the show this year – a riot of white blossoms. Hard to imagine it will have energy left over for actual apples. Karin trimmed some apple blossom branches and put them in a vase on the dining room table. Beautiful. Looks like we dropped $100 on a fancy florist.
We’ve been mowing the paths and carrying our breakfast outside while the backyard woodpecker taps out a few quarter notes on one of the maples. The dove is on her nest. Robins are engineers, solid Midwesterners. Their sturdy, mud-reinforced nests are the bird equivalent of a three bedroom ranch with a two car garage. Doves are bohemians. They lay a few twigs crudely on a low branch and hope for the best – a writer’s shack, an afterthought. I look up from this letter and watch the patient dove.
It’s been exactly a year now that our friends helped us load the boxes and furniture into the farmhouse. There are signs of progress. The award-winning poison ivy thriving about the property when we first moved couldn’t handle my many attacks last year, and opted to give up trying to come back this spring for the most part. We’ve seen no snakes, which is fine by me. And there seem to be far fewer ticks now that we’ve mown all around the garden, and tamed a few wild areas here and there.
I don’t know how big the garden will be this year because we want to grow a lot of songs in the coming weeks and months. But I do clearly remember the sensation of reaching underneath our vines and pulling out a plump tomato for lunch and thinking that the curious weight in the palm was almost as pleasurable as cupping one’s hand on a breast. Almost.
I didn’t know when we bought the farm if I might want to just stay out here more and more and turn into a bit of a hermit writer or something. But no, I look forward to traveling city to city now more than ever. I couldn’t just disappear into the land. I need music, and the energy of people. But thank God for a place to retreat. If you could see the view from this porch, I think you’d agree.
The big news is we got a call from our friend Tracy who knew of some folks who were moving and needed to find a home for their seven-month-old male Weimaraner. We looked at each other and realized that we might be ready to get a buddy for Elroy. Maybe it was time. We figured it couldn’t hurt to look.
He lives with us now.
We had forgotten the crazy, unpredictable, and often hilarious intensity that is the young Weimaraner’s world. Every meal is a pie-eating contest. Every photo is a photo with a Weimaraner in the middle. Every walk is a game to see who can be in the very front. Every flowerbed calls out, shred me. Every cat, smell my ass.
It’s a commitment, but we’re up for it. I’ve had to learn about being the pack leader, which is hard for me sometimes as I increasingly prefer the relaxed and groovy Zen approach to life. But the dogs need a pack leader, and for our world not to explode, that pack leader has to be me right now. I’m working on my calm, assertive, no bullshit Daddy voice. And a well-rounded dog life: exercise, discipline (training), affection.
So say hello to Shakey Jake Lewis. (Karin decided he must have been a blues guitarist in a former life.) We have to take quite a few Jake breaks so that Elroy doesn’t get too worn out. We think he’s gonna turn out good.
And Drew Vogel sent along these words today, which resonated so well with how we were feeling: I am constantly pleasantly surprised at the capacity of the heart — you loved Willow with all your heart. That love is not diminished as your love for the new puppy grows — your heart expands to be able to accommodate it without taking anything away from the memory and love of Willow.
But hey, wanna get together?
We’re going to tour the West Coast this spring and a decent bit of the Midwest and South with a band from Brooklyn called Hem. Like us, they’re in love with the American Songbook and hope to be making music for a long time. Should make for a lovely evening all around. We still enjoy playing songs from Drunkard’s Prayer and Ohio and a smattering of earlier tunes as well. But new songs have been making themselves known which we are itching to debut. We’ll be touring with Devon Ashley on drums and percussion, and Rick Plant on bass and guitar. As far as we know, this will be our last tour with Rick as he and his family are planning a move to Melbourne, Australia. Our recent trip down under must have done a number on them! Rick has been with us for much of the last three years. He will be missed.
Here are the dates, and do join us. It wouldn’t be the same without you.
Over the Rhine and Hem (see notes for particulars…)
Sweet Intoxication Spring Tour 2006
May 6 Bellingham, WA – The Nightlight (Over the Rhine only, No Hem.)
Special guest: Willy Vlautin, lead singer for Richmond Fontaine.)
May 7 Seattle, WA – Neumo’s (Hem closes show.)
May 8 Portland, OR – Wonder Ballroom (Over the Rhine closes show.)
May 9 Eugene, OR – WOW Hall (Over the Rhine closes show.)
May 11 San Francisco, CA – Great American Music Hall (Over the Rhine closes show.)
May 12 Sacramento, CA – The Underground (Over the Rhine closes show.)
May 13 Fallon, NV – Barkley Theater at Oaks Park Art Center (Over the Rhine only, No Hem.)
May 15 Los Angeles, CA – Knitting Factory (Over the Rhine closes show.)
May 16 San Diego, CA – Belly Up (Hem closes show.)
May 19 Cincinnati, OH – Ava’s Hope Benefit Concert at Crossroads (Over the Rhine only, No Hem. Special guest: Katie Reider.)
May 20 Fort Wayne, IN – Come 2 Go (An evening with Over the Rhine only, No Hem.)
Home to the farm for a break…
May 30 Chicago, IL – The Double Door (Over the Rhine closes show.)
June 1 Bloomington, IN – Buskirk-Chumley Theater (Over the Rhine closes show.)
June 2 Nashville, TN – Exit/In (Over the Rhine closes show.)
June 3 Atlanta, GA – Variety Playhouse (Over the Rhine closes show.)
June 5 Charlotte, NC – Visulite Theatre (Hem closes show.)
June 6 Asheville, NC – The Grey Eagle (Over the Rhine closes show.)
June 7 Chapel Hill, NC – NC Local 506 (Hem closes show.)
June 8 Washington, DC – The Birchmere (Over the Rhine closes show.)
June 10 Lancaster, PA – Chameleon Club (Over the Rhine only, No Hem.)
June 12 Boston, MA – Paradise (Hem closes show.)
June 13 Philadelphia, PA – Theater of the Living Arts (Over the Rhine closes show.)
June 14 New York, NY – Concert Hall
at the New York Society for Ethical Culture (Hem closes show.)
June 15 Northampton, MA – Ironhorse (Hem closes show.)
(PLEASE NOTE: Some shows may not have tickets on sale yet. Check out overtherhine.com for more info.)
Enjoy this time of year bursting with newness, and hope to see you soon,