May 14, 2010

P.O. Box 12078
Cincinnati, OH 45212

May 14, 2010

Hello from Ohio,

The coffee is made and goes down dark and smooth on a cool gray Spring morning. The dogs are outside. (We had never seen this before but they actually treed a groundhog yesterday. He was about 25 feet up a black locust tree when I came out to see what the ruckus was about, the cattle dog singing a triumphant falsetto.)

Karin’s hummingbirds have returned to her back porch feeder. She says the sound of the first thrum always “sends an electric shiver of joy from the soles of her feet right up to the top of her head.”

The male goldfinches are positively exotic their colors are so bright. Tiny Ohio jungle birds…

The barn swallows are back. They winter as far south as Argentina and can fly up to 600 miles a day. I think they are my personal favorites right now. There is so much joy in their flying as they dart waist-high above the fields, making what the Audubon book calls “a constant liquid twittering…”

The bobwhite quail have moved in close for nesting. They call more or less constantly, and if we whistle a “Bob-white?” from the porch, they always call back. They never give up – we always stop after awhile and the conversation ends with them having the last word. I’m told the bobwhites like to nest where there are dogs around because the dogs keep some of the natural predators away.

A mourning dove is sitting on her nest. She selected a precarious hidden place where a few blooming blackberry canes meet. When it comes to nest building, the doves are masters of flimsiness.

It’s always amazing to me that of all the particular places on earth, birds raise their young every year right here in the wild corners of our little farm-in-progress. This is their home too. My father encouraged us to leave the edges of things wild. He was the one who taught us how to get the bobwhites to answer back.

My father moved our family a lot back in the day, and he always got his birdhouses up pronto. My sister Grace and I were processing our childhood one time and this little couplet showed up:

All the places we had to roam,
Just to give a bluebird a home.

After I wrote his obituary, after we buried my father, after we said goodbye to Amish relatives I hadn’t seen in years, Karin and I came back to the farm, and a strange and lovely mockingbird arrived and followed us around for a number of weeks, singing constantly. We had never had a mockingbird here before. He beckoned in the mornings outside our bedroom window. He sang in our apple tree. He sang near the fire pit where we like to gather on summer evenings. He followed Elroy and I on our walks.

It’s hard to be sad when a mockingbird follows you around singing. The music felt like a sacrament of comfort, some small heaven-sent gift.

I don’t know why I’m telling you this.

I’m drinking my morning coffee and sat down to write you.

Tomorrow Karin and I are flying west to sing and capture some songs of our own.

We finished the last song (Ohio’s last demo) and sent it off Tuesday and our producer, Joe Henry, has now helped narrow the field to the 14 that we’ll gather ’round and play for this new project. But he warned us that after we dive in we may be surprised and other songs may raise their hands unexpectedly. It will all be revealed.

(A quick aside, Mr. Henry has been a wonderful ally and foil and newfound friend during this process. We are excited for you to hear the brand new song we co-wrote with Joe, and look forward to more collaboration.)

Three weeks ago we invited you, the people who had found our music and given it a life (those of you who have invited the songs to follow you around) to partner with us in making this new Over the Rhine record.

I don’t think Karin and I are exaggerating when we say we have never quite experienced the gift of community on this level before.

Karin and I have been working to move to a place in our lives where we can live debt-free, but now I realize this will not be possible. We will always carry a debt of gratitude to our extended musical family.

You all stepped forward and completely paid for this new recording – all recording costs, studio costs, musicians, mastering – and we haven’t even recorded a single note yet.

Your generosity has allowed us to completely immerse ourselves in our writing lives these last few weeks as we finished all the songs and made final preparations to begin recording this Monday, May 17.

We will say thank you by making the most beautiful, meaningful record we are capable of making. The exciting thing: I still don’t know what it’s going to sound like! I think we will all be surprised.

We are going to continue our fundraising campaign through June 26, the date of the special Good Dog show we have planned with Ric and Brian. Any additional money that we are able to raise will go toward the accompanying artwork (vinyl too!) and the various costs that go along with putting a record out into the world, giving it a good first day at school, letting people know it actually exists: manufacturing, marketing, assembling the right team, preparing to tour etc. We will do all we can to give this music (our record/your record) the best life it can have.

But friends, the music is paid for. We are feeling inspired, humbled, empowered and loved. And we thank you.

It’s time to pack the suitcases.

Let’s make a record.

Love from nowhere,

Linford and Karin