March 17, 2013
P.O. Box 12078
Cincinnati, OH 45212
March 17, 2013
Do you believe in coincidences?
I was invited to contribute an essay to a journal called IMAGE on the word “human.”
(If you’re curious you can read the essay here:)
(And a follow up interview with readers here:)
I didn’t really know where to begin, so I just told the story of Karin and I making our first tentative songs in the neighborhood of Over-the-Rhine in Cincinnati, and then eventually moving East of the city to an old pre-Civil War brick farmhouse. We had found the house in the bend of a back road one day as we were driving around trying to finish a song. There was a For Sale By Owner sign posted in the front yard, and we found ourselves sitting down at a bank signing some papers not long after.
The move was a big change for us, and has had a lot to do with both Karin and I becoming more human I hope – growing more in tune with our past, getting our hands into the earth a bit and trying to learn the names of the many birds, trees and weeds that surround us. We call the place Nowhere Farm, and we mostly grow songs.
When my father first saw the new/old place, he encouraged us to “leave the edges wild.” And we have tried to do just that. (The songbirds have repaid us by returning year after year to nest and raise young and praise each new day as only they can.)
Well, one woman who read the essay in Macon, Georgia, was curious, because she had family roots in Highland County, Ohio, and wondered if we lived anywhere near there. Since she was very interested in genealogy and history, she did some research, consulted some public records and so forth and felt all the breath leave her body when she learned that we were living in her great-great-grandparents’ house!
Now Karin and I have lived here for eight years, and from day one we have been saying we need to do some research and learn more about the history of this place we’ve come to call home. It’s something we’ve talked a lot about, but our touring schedule keeps us coming and going, and our writing is an ongoing commitment, and by the time we take care of three big dogs, and get a vegetable garden in, and keep up a house built in the 1830s – well, doing the research is just something we never got crossed off the list.
So imagine our surprise and disbelief when we opened a package from someone named Judy in Georgia, and read Judy’s long letter and began going through the documents and photos that she had enclosed.
First was a certified copy of a land grant, signed by President John Quincy Adams, awarding the land we live on to the family of a Revolutionary War soldier who had died in the war. (The original document was framed and passed down through the generations and would have hung on our walls at one time.) The soldier’s only son, James, claimed the grant, and James’ son, Robert, built this house in 1833. He and his wife Emily had 9 children, and they walked and played and cried and laughed in these rooms – this very room – where I am writing these words. (Judy’s grandmother used to come here to visit the house as a child, and in fact she enclosed a picture of the front of our house taken in the 1950s.)
When Karin and I pick up our guitars in these rooms, or sit at the piano and play our songs on these wide plank wood floors hammered together with square nails, we often feel like the house is thirsty to soak up the music. We’ve always wondered about the people that walked through these rooms 100 years ago, 150 years ago. Who were they? What happened? I wrote about this curious sensation in the essay.
Now I’m holding a 100+ year-old photograph in my hand, and I see the faces of Robert’s son Joseph, his wife Mary, their daughter Della Jane, and so on and so forth…
Now I can sit in these rooms, and be quiet and listen, and look at this photograph and write a song called Della Jane. Now we have faces.
I just had to let you know.
There’s one more layer. IMAGE journal has been good to Karin and I over the years, inviting us to Santa Fe to lead workshops, and inviting me from time to time to contribute pieces of writing for publication. The editor of IMAGE (Gregory Wolfe) has never been shy about the fact that they consider Flannery O’Connor to be the patron saint of the journal. Well, it just so happens, Judy’s husband (Judy mailed us the package, remember) works at Andalusia, Flannery O’Connor’s old farm near Milledgeville, Georgia, the place where she lived and wrote (now a historical site that welcomes visitors).
(And Judy – not previously familiar with our music – also mentioned that in the office at Andalusia, there hangs a framed poster from Vanderbilt University for an event that was called “The Enduring Chill: Remembering Flannery O’Connor”. It was a two-day affair that featured performances by Over the Rhine, Mary Gauthier, Julie Lee and others. In addition to the concert, we all had a moderated panel discussion at Vanderbilt about Flannery’s writing that was quite lively…)
Well, my oh my. I don’t quite know what to make of all these connections. I don’t know if they feel as significant to you as they do to Karin and I, or not.
(And I won’t mention that the day after receiving Judy’s package I turned on “This American Life” and the theme of the entire show was “coincidences…” Great btw, highly recommend looking up the podcast.)
I must admit there have been more than a few moments like this in my life – my own story seems so very full of foreshadowing: I was often given hints of things to come in such profoundly evocative ways. I’m not sure whether to see these “coincidences” as God-infused (that is my tendency and instinct) or whether this infinite universe is just full of surprises, and how could it be otherwise.
So what do you think? Just wanted to share this unexpected gift of provenance. Maybe you’ve had some coincidences of your own? Let us know: firstname.lastname@example.org
And, I guess before this all gets away from me, I better pass along the news regarding all things Over the Rhine. There is a lot to report. Hope to see you all soon.
Peace like a river, love like an ocean,
Linford (and Karin)
Memorial Day Weekend Concerts at Nowhere Farm: May 25 & 26
We are adding a second concert here at Nowhere Farm this Memorial Day Weekend. (May 25 is sold out.) This is part of our ongoing fundraiser as Karin and I prepare to record and release not one, but two (!) new projects this year.
Come on out and see the place that John Quincy Adams gave to the family of a Revolutionary War soldier – this old house that we’ve called home for the last 8 years. Meet Minnie Pearl, our 130-pound Great Dane puppy, Shakey, our Weimaraner and Frisbee expert, and Porter, our stray cattle dog mix that we took in on a cold night. We’ll play simple, back porch versions of our new songs for you on the very soil that they grew out of. And, weather permitting we’ll watch the (super) full moon rise out here on our little farm on the edge of the world.
If you’d like to read all about this collaboration with our extended musical family, please visit overtherhine.com and click on Let’s Make A Record. Your participation can be as simple as pre-ordering the CDs. Or as significant as arranging for a private house concert: Karin and I will show up with our guitars and perform for you and your friends in your living room. (We have space left for just a few more of these.) And if you’ve already contributed, but would like to upgrade your contribution to be able to attend the farm concert (Barn Dance) please email:
We must admit that hosting these concerts has really gotten us dreaming about what the next chapter (Third Act?) of Over the Rhine could look like. We may have the biggest announcement of our career regarding this soon. Fasten your seatbelts.
APRIL Over the Rhine CONCERTS:
Later this month, Karin and I will be heading out to South Pasadena to work with producer Joe Henry and a lovely cast of players once again to record the songs for – working title – The Farm. (!!!) Immediately following the sessions, we are going to take a swing through the Southeast. Fresh out of the studio, I’m sure we’ll be more than a little anxious to share more of these new songs that have arrived on the scene as well as some old familiars. Join us! We’ll try to help usher in a little springtime.
April 5 (Friday) Franklin Theater, Franklin, TN*
April 6 (Saturday) Workplay Theater, Birmingham, AL*
April 8 (Monday) Melting Point, Athens, GA*
April 9 (Tuesday) The Grey Eagle, Asheville, NC
April 10, (Wednesday) Fletcher Opera Theater, Raleigh, NC*
April 12, (Friday) Jefferson Theater, Charlottesville, VA*
April 13, (Saturday) Rams Head Onstage, Annapolis, MD*
April 14, (Sunday) Ephrata Main Theater, Ephrata, PA*
*with very special guest Ben Sollee
Check out overtherhine.com for more dates…
GOOD DOG BAD DOG – LIMITED EDITION HARDBOUND LYRIC BOOK ILLUSTRATED BY AMERICAN ARTIST BARRY MOSER
Finally, our dear friend Barry Moser illustrated a hardbound book (limited edition) of the lyrics from Good Dog Bad Dog. Barry is a National Book Award winning illustrator, who has illustrated Moby Dick, Alice in Wonderland, the KJV Bible, and hundreds of other fine books. This labor of love contains engravings of some of the dogs we’ve loved over the years, and celebrates not only our friendship with Barry, but the survival of these songs that we recorded over 15 years ago. You can pick up a copy here:
Well, I think that’s enough to chew on for now folks. Four pages is usually about where I leave it. Feel free to share this email with loved ones over coffee, pass it around during happy hour, slip it in the cereal box for breakfast reading, or cut up a little fresh ginger and add it along with a spoonful of raw organic honey (or guava nectar) to a cup of late winter herbal tea, and perhaps these words can serve as a placemat.