May 17, 2011

P.O. Box 12078
Cincinnati, OH 45212

May 17, 2011

Dear friends, compatriots, co-conspirators, fellow travelers,

A late night dispatch from the farm…

One year ago today, Karin and I walked into The Garfield House in South Pasadena, California, for the first time. Many of you who had found Over the Rhine’s music and given it a good life had stepped forward in advance of our trip and pitched hard-earned money into an imaginary hat that we passed all over the world to make this particular adventure possible.

Our producer, Joe Henry (also a songwriter, performer, recording artist, writer, husband and father) had assembled a band of musicians that would soon help The Garfield House lift off the ground, drift out over the Pacific Ocean, and blow apart. I’m happy to say that even though we got the songs out over the deep sea and had to hit the life boats, Joe Henry got us all safely back to shore. 

Without being too metaphorical, musically speaking, it was truly the week of a lifetime for us. We started on a Monday afternoon, May 17. The first two songs we recorded that first afternoon were Sharpest Blade (co-written with Joe, and The Laugh of Recognition, written by Karin.) We wrapped the following Friday afternoon, May 21. The record is full of a number of ‘first takes’. The band felt like a beautiful dancing partner. We just wanted to lean in, close our eyes and take the ride.

We called it The Long Surrender.

One year later, even now we find ourselves needing to thank not only our captain, Joe Henry, but Ryan Freeland, the engineer who recorded and mixed the following cast of conjurers so beautifully:

Jay Bellerose (all manner of drums, weather, a one man marching band)
David Piltch (upright bass, electric bass, masonry, scaffolding)
Greg Leisz (pedal steel, lap steel, mando cello, tenor guitar and things I don’t know what to call)
Keefus Ciancia (outdated keyboards, moonlit orchestra in a box)
Patrick Warren (Chamberlin, reed organ, expansion coordinator)
Levon Henry (tenor saxophone, guardian angel appearing in the 3rd act)

And our soul singers:

Niki Haris
Jean McClain
James Gilstrap

And finally, Lucinda Williams, who leaned into the song Undamned in front of our eyes, trading lines with Karin, reminding us all that tears of joy and sadness do indeed well from the same place.

And if you have invited these songs to be a part of your life, you too have our gratitude. 

Thank God for music.

If you haven’t yet heard The Long Surrender, please visit overtherhine.com or any fine upstanding record store and jump off the high dive into the deep end. Don’t be shy now. It’s not the same without you.

Karin and I can’t remember a time we have been called upon to work harder than we’ve worked in the last few months since the release of The Long Surrender.

We were privileged to take our first trip to Japan recently and offer our songs at an outdoor festival, as well as on a few radio stations and in a music venue in Tokyo. Songs like Latter Days, Days Like This and All My Favorite People feel different in a country still grieving 27,000 dead or missing. 

We arrived as students and listeners and found so much to absorb. There had been four small earthquakes (by their standards) the day before we arrived. Our host, Hajime, explained to us that there was nothing we could do by worrying to change this reality they lived with. In fact, if we experienced an earthquake, he explained there was really no way to control what was happening – it’s impossible to predict whether it’s safer to stay inside or run outside. The important thing regardless of events beyond our control was to embrace the moment in front of us gracefully and surrender the rest. 

The food, the kindness we experienced, and a pristine, sunny, embryonic Easter Sunday Morning in Japan were unforgettable. Thanks to all who found us on this trip and made us feel so welcome – we hope to see you again soon.

The day after we got back from Japan, we rehearsed with the band for 8 hours to prepare for two dress rehearsals and three performances with the Cincinnati Ballet, a company of 33 dancers from around the world. Three choreographers had worked up a program in three acts set to 20 of our songs, which we performed live as a collaboration with the dancers.

There certainly aren’t enough pages available in this letter to describe what happened, but it was another highlight of our 20 years of making music together. And so moving: Karin had to close her eyes during the songs Only God Can Save Us Now, and Who Will Guard The Door (the first written about her mother, the second about her father shortly after his death) in order to be able to sing them while they bloomed in front of us on stage. The good news is there is already talk of trying this again, or taking it to another city, or, or, or??? (C’mon P&G or GE or Great American Insurance Company: we need a sponsor.)

Last week we made a quick visit to Calgary and Winnipeg and offered some music as part of an evening’s conversation with our good friend, editor of Image journal, Greg Wolfe. We were reminded of the years I spent as a young teen on the prairies of Alberta. Perhaps I haven’t fully acknowledged the influence those wide open spaces must have had on my songwriting. But we do hope we can visit more often.

So, on the ONE YEAR ANNIVERSARY of the recording of The Long Surrender, lift a glass with us and mark your calendars:

Tuesday, May 17th: NPR’s WORLD CAFÉ airs our interview with David Dye, and our performance of several songs from The Long Surrender. Listen in on your local NPR station, or stream online.

OVER THE RHINE IN CONCERT: (more info at overtherhine.com)

Wednesday, May 18th: CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA: Jefferson Theater, with very special guest, Kim Taylor (writer of the song, Days Like This, recently featured on ABC’s Brothers and Sisters…)

Thursday, May 19th, WILMINGTON, DE: 11th Annual Non-Comm(vention) with The Civil Wars, Bright Eyes, Justin Townes Earle, The Jayhawks and many more. 
SOLD OUT. (Our set Thursday evening will be broadcast on WXPN out of Philadelphia. Stream online.)

Tuesday, May 24th, ST. LOUIS, MO: Old Rock House, with very special guest, Sarah Siskind

With Harper Blynn and Cabin: an evening of music in the open air to calm the Ohio River, and help spring arrive. ***FREE SHOW.*** THANK YOU WFPK!

Friday and Saturday, May 27 and 28: DAYTON, OH: Canal Street Tavern, our living room away from home, with very special guest, Sarah Siskind

Sunday, May 29, NASHVILLE, TN: Third and Lindsley: with very special guest, Sarah Siskind. LIVE BROADCAST ON WRLT. Tune in, or stream online.

Recently announced! Our beautiful wknd in the South:

Thursday, June 16: CHARLOTTE, NC: The Visulite Theatre, with very special guest, Lucy Wainwright Roche

Friday, June 17: ATLANTA, GA: Variety Playhouse, with very special guest, Lucy Wainwright Roche

Saturday, June 18: ASHEVILLE, NC: The Orange Peel, with very special guest, Lucy Wainwright Roche

Check out overtherhine.com for more, including info on our appearance at Bumbershoot Festival in Seattle, and a weeklong, musical train trip we have planned for September with Mary Gauthier, Richard Shindell and Michael Wilson. A week of mountains, open fires, evenings of music, hot springs, new friendships formed. (We wouldn’t encourage you to jump in on something like this if we lived more than once.)

Hope we can be together soon one way or t’other.

Peace like a river, love like an ocean,

Linford and Karin of Over the Rhine

PS Please circulate this information freely. Orphaned believers, skeptical dreamers, you’re welcome. You can stay right here. You don’t have to go.