Letters

March 10, 2007

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OVER THE RHINE
P.O. Box 12078
Cincinnati, OH 45212

March 10, 2007

Over the Rhine Spring Update Letter: Not a long way from OK.

Karin and I are lounging this afternoon drinking coffee, doing some writing, a little reading.

In Shawnee, Oklahoma.

(And it’s Springtime to boot – seventy degrees, sunny, bright.)

Might want to grab a cup of coffee yourself and settle in somewhere comfortable. This is going to take awhile.

Well, you see, we got an invitation to come out here and play our songs at a coffee house on OBU’s campus. OBU: Oklahoma Baptist University. In addition to the concert, one of the professors, Kristin Todd, a real bona fide musicologist, wanted to host a little Q&A session in the afternoon with the students and us. (One thing among others that came out of the Q&A time was we realized the musicologist had an exceedingly low estimation of Brittney Spears. Who’da thunk it.)

When we started Over the Rhine we decided we were going to play for anyone who walked up the sidewalk and bought a ticket. We take a lot of pleasure in the fact that Over the Rhine’s audience is one of the more diverse we know of. We’ve got teenagers all the way up to listeners with well-loved record collections compiled in the ’60’s… And we get e-mail from many different folks from pretty much all around the world who have found the music here and there, and who are drawn to it for different reasons – people with a wide array of stories.

In America, in recent years, it sometimes seems like many folks are becoming increasingly entrenched in their political camps. Certain religious affiliations are becoming increasingly rigid. When groups of people insist on surrounding themselves almost exclusively with others most like themselves, real conversation can be hard to come by. (Conversation that celebrates the reality that since people have the ability to see things very differently, maybe we can actually learn from each other, be surprised.)

We love the fact that Over the Rhine’s music invites people with vastly different backgrounds to join an open conversation.

That being said, and stated in rather lofty terms, I’ll be honest: We were a bit apprehensive about visiting a Baptist University. Just out of curiosity, what do you think of when you hear the word, Baptists?

Well, two Baptist girls, Juli and Carol, picked us up at the Oklahoma City airport. Before long, they were quoting liberally from TV show, The Office, and it soon became clear that they had an uncanny knack for remembering reams of dialogue from dozens of films, including all the Christopher Guest movies, Best In Show, Waiting For Guffman etc… These girls obviously loved to laugh and needed to laugh a lot.

Not only that, they were good storytellers.

There was the time they shot pool all night with a bar-hopping eccentric named, simply, “Honey.” We’ll leave it at that.

Or the time that Carol’s visiting friend was determined to attempt to water ski with his prosthetic leg, which flew off and managed to their shock to ski upright for quite some time, an errant leg sailing on its own across the water still attached to its own ski! The horrified observers on the beach thought they had witnessed a terrible accident. Word got around the community, and that Sunday morning the pastor at their church actually asked for prayer for the boy he had heard about who had lost his leg at the lake over the weekend.

Or there was the time Carol’s friend was in charge of playing “The Wedding March” at a double wedding with two expecting brides in rural Oklahoma. Her friend was pretty rusty on the keyboard, but good luck, they realized that the keyboard had “The Wedding March” programmed in. All you had to do was hit the “demo” button, and there it was, intro and all. But when they pressed the “demo” button for the processional during the wedding, they realized that “The Wedding March” soon changed to a funky modern jazz ditty, and then a bizarre polka – showcasing whatever wacky sounds and repertoire some overly exuberant programmer felt the keyboard was capable of. They couldn’t figure out how to shut it off, and the pregnant brides had to walk down the aisle and try to act natural. The mother of one of the expecting brides shot Carol and her friend a look they’ll never forget.

And then there was the time that the OBU “Bisonettes”, which consisted of 45 singing Baptist girls, took a bus trip to the Grand Canyon, but ended up visiting a Naval Base where they got dressed up to the nines and found themselves incapable of not giggling predictably – walking cliches of sexual tension – in the company of 60-80 beautiful sailors in full uniform. Juli’s beautiful, blue-eyed sailor, Dan, coaxed her phone number out of her even though she was in a serious relationship at the time, but alas, never called.

But then Carol and Juli could also be very serious and use words like “hermeneutics” which, they reminded us, was the science and art of interpretation. Or they could talk about their film class, in which they were currently studying Alfred Hitchcock and had just watched Psycho (the original) for the first time – and what a prolific visionary Alfred Hitchcock was etc.

The fact that the average American eats their weight in refined sugar every year came up in conversation. And Juli’s belief that the only proper way to listen to Ella Fitzgerald was on vinyl.

Did you get those band names by the way?

Ella On Vinyl
Eat Your Weight In Sugar

(No extra charge for that.)

Monica, the woman on staff in charge of organizing events on the Baptist campus, is a huge Lucinda Williams fan, loves Anne Lamott and Annie Dillard – juicy women in general – and really has a passion for inviting kids that attend OBU to embark on a journey of discovery that hopefully will greatly expand upon what they were given in their often sheltered, church backgrounds. She believes that the anti-intellectualism prevalent in some churches is not really all that helpful. So she hopes to provide an environment that can be expansive, holistic, challenging.

Someone on the Baptist campus had scrawled Over the Rhine lyrics all over a large poster board and posted it prominently in the student center:

The last time I saw Jesus I was drinkin’ bloody mary’s in the South in a bar room in New Orleans rinsin’ out the bad taste in my mouth…

There is all this untouched beauty the light the dark both running through me…

Pour me a glass of wine, talk deep into the night, who knows what we’ll find…

I’m not letting go of God, I’m just losing my grip…

Carol’s roommate got back at 2am from a Snow Patrol concert in Tulsa. Carol was listening to Ray LaMontagne in the car.

Juli said if God’s voice sounded like Ray LaMontagne, she would do anything he asked.

And I realized that when we’re actually willing to sit in the same room with people we perceive as being much different, Baptists for instance, we discover that we have way more in common than we don’t. Generalizations fall flat when there’s a breathing, laughing, thinking individual in front of you, with as much humanity as you yourself possess.

I’ve found this to be the case all my life.

So we remember to try to remain open, and we try to remember not to guess what Oklahoma Baptist University will be about before we actually get there and have a chance to share drinks and a meal, and have a real conversation. We remember that we will play for anyone who walks up the sidewalk and buys a ticket.

And good for the Baptist girls for taking what they were given and expanding on it, wrestling with the big questions, and laughing often at the wild ride this life inevitably is.

***

So how are you?

We’ve gotten the first taste of Spring on our tongues here at the Farm. We’ve sprung forward ready or not.

Here’s the Over the Rhine news you’ve been waiting for. Hopefully.

LIVE FROM NOWHERE VOLUME TWO

The manufacturer tells us that the Live From Nowhere Volume Two CD’s are on a truck headed our way. We think you’re going to like this one very much, and that years from now, Volume Two will be the one to beat, but hey, we’re not going to jinx it. You can stream some tunes now on the vintage radio at OvertheRhine.com, or get a taste at myspace.com/overtherhine.

LFN Volume 2 contains a live recording of Karin’s oft-requested version of Orphan Girl, our off-kilter duet of Baby It’s Cold Outside, and a tipsy-gypsy, full-band recording of Hush Now, to name a few. Thanks to all of you who pre-ordered so far! (Everyone who pre-orders will receive a tiny treat in addition to the CD.) Karin and I have our pens in hand, and will sign, seal and deliver ASAP. (Thanks to Michael Wilson and Bill Ivester once again for the beautiful photographs, and to Jake and Mickey and both Pauls for such a fresh spin on so many songs. It’s been fun. Looking forward to much more.)

PORT MERCH

We have a new team of folks handling all the orders (CD’s, T-Shirts, Posters, OtR Blend etc.) that are placed through OvertheRhine.com. We think you’re going to love the prompt customer service and attention to detail that Port Merch provides. Check them out:
http://www.overtherhine.portmerch.com/stores/home.php

Our friends at Paste helped out with this for several years. As Paste Magazine grew into the most interesting music magazine in America, it increasingly became a situation where all hands were needed on deck to assemble issue after great issue. (We’re fans of Paste in case you haven’t noticed. Thanks to all of them for their help and belief in Over the Rhine’s music.) We’re excited about this fresh start with Port Merch. Their staff is standing by to assist you with your order. Let us know how it goes!

Port Merch currently has a full cornucopia of Over the Rhine treats including all CD’s, some T-Shirts, and Clinton Reno’s beautiful, hand-printed, tour posters. Clinton has done four so far for Over the Rhine. We still have at least a few of each available.

There are specials as well, including a free, autographed Michael Wilson photograph of my sidekick and I with any coffee purchase. And if you haven’t tried our coffee yet, well, C’mon now! Put a bag of Over the Rhine blend on your kitchen counter, and just see what happens.

DOWNLOAD OF THE MONTH

(Rare songs for sale. Will work for headphones.)

We’re going to begin building (for fun and profit) an archive of monthly downloads available exclusively at Port Merch. This March: A careening Live rendition of Goodbye Charles featuring Paul Patterson on violin. Check it out if your I-Pod needs a little extra bounce this Spring. (And if you’re planning an overnight road trip anytime soon, you might want to crank up the February download: Word on the street is: it’s roadworthy.)

DISCOUNT FIREWORKS

This is our last project with Back Porch Records, our record label for the last six or seven or so years. We’re now free agents. The sky is the proverbial limit. It’s 2007, and that means the music industry rulebook has been thrown out! Time for a rewrite. Exciting.

Thanks to all at Back Porch for their efforts on behalf of the music of Over the Rhine.

If you’re in the mood for a nationally-released Over the Rhine compilation, which contains a selection of recorded highlights from the last fifteen years, quintessential Michael Wilson photographs, as well as characteristically rambling liner notes, Discount Fireworks is for you! (Also contains a strummy, modern musical testimony called, Last Night On Earth Again, in which, Karin, our protagonist, contemplates, the unpredictable things that tended to happen in our concerts in the early days when people would occasionally yell, Freebird! Enjoy.)

LET’S GET TOGETHER

Join us for a dreamy, conversational, understated St. Patrick’s Day Weekend at Canal Street Tavern. This Friday, Karin and I and the boys are all driving up to Dayton, Ohio, to one of our all-time favorite listening rooms, what we’ve come to think of as an extension of our musical living room. Cincinnati band Ellery opens. Tickets are still available for both nights. Visit OvertheRhine.com for details.

Here’s more dirt. Mark your calendars. We hope to see you:

Over the Rhine: Live From Nowhere:

Fri Mar 16: Dayton OH, Canal Street Tavern, age 18+ (Special Guest: Ellery)

Sat Mar 17: Dayton OH, Canal Street Tavern, age 18+ (Special Guest: Ellery)

Fri Mar 30: Goshen IN, The Goshen Theater, all ages

Sat Mar 31: Nelsonville OH, Stuart’s Opera House, all ages

Sun Apr 15: Atlanta GA, Smith’s Olde Bar, age 21+

Mon Apr 16: Charlotte NC, Visulite Theatre, age 21+ (Double Bill with Vienna Teng)

Wed Apr 18: Charlottesville VA, Gravity Lounge, age 21+

Thu Apr 19: Vienna VA, Jammin’ Java, all ages

Fri Apr 20: Annapolis MD, Ram’s Head Tavern, age 21+

Sat Apr 21: New York NY, Joe’s Pub, all ages
TWO SHOWS: 7:30 pm and 9:30 pm

Fri Apr 27: Cincinnati OH, 20th Century Theatre, all ages (Special Guest: Ellery)

Sat Apr 28: Cincinnati OH, 20th Century Theatre, all ages (Special Guest: Ellery)

Wed May 02: Ann Arbor MI, The Ark, all ages (Special Guest: Ellery)

Thu May 03: Ann Arbor MI, The Ark, all ages (Special Guest: Ellery)

Fri May 04: Akron OH, Lime Spider, all ages (Special Guest: Ellery)

(We’re looking for two people to help out at the merch table for all the above shows in exchange for tickets. If you’re interested, pls e-mail Brandon@overtherhine.com. Pls put “MERCH VOLUNTEER/DATE/CITY, STATE” in the subject heading of your e-mail. If you don’t receive a response, no worries, just means we’re covered. Thanks.)

(If you’re interested in helping out with the Over the Rhine street team, please sign up at myspace.com/overtherhine. Thanks!)

MISCELLANEOUS

We’ll be posting details at OvertheRhine.com soon for the Songwriting Workshop in Santa Fe that Karin and I will be leading once again the first week of August. It was an unforgettable week last year, and we’re lookin’ forward to Round Two.

Also, the Over the Rhine cross-country musical train ride is being planned for July of 2008. We’re going to invite some gifted friends to join us for performances every evening, and sell 70 or so tickets to those of you crazy enough to board the train for a freewheeling week of American music and stunning scenery. Details coming soon.

THE TRUMPET CHILD

Finally, Karin and I will be heading to Nashville next week to finish the next full-length Over the Rhine CD due out in August of 2007. The working title is, The Trumpet Child. Send good thoughts our way. (Can you say, Horns, Strings, Clarinets?) Fasten your seat belts: it’s going to be fun.

Thanks for your generous support over the years. It means the world.

Keep in touch.

Spread a little love.

More soon,

Linford (and Karin)