Since 1996, Ohio-based Over the Rhine has centered around husband-and-wife songwriting team Linford Detweiler and Karin Bergquist, along with an ever changing lineup of musicians.
But from its formation in 1989 until its fifth album, 1996’s holiday-themed “The Darkest Night of the Year,” Over the Rhine was a four-piece band, featuring guitarist Ric Hordinski and drummer Brian Kelley. Taking its name from a neighborhood in Cincinnati, the band built a following on the strength of independent releases “Till We Have Faces” (1991) and “Patience” (1992) before signing to IRS/EMI Records, which rereleased both of the band’s early releases along with “Eve” (1994).
“The first three records especially are about the sound of the four of us playing together,” Detweiler said recently, from the rural farmhouse in Ohio that he and Bergquist have called home since 2004. “After about seven years, Ric and Bryan were both kind of ready to move on to other things — Ric is a successful producer now and owns his own studio, and Bryan has played in various bands.”
In 2008, the original quartet reunited to mark the band’s 20th anniversary; in 2010, they again reunited for a performance of “Good Dog Bad Dog.” For Detweiler, being able to once again play with musicians that he’s known since his teenage years — he first met and began playing with Hordinski at age 17 — was an eye-opening experience, both rekindling the band’s initial spark while also validating the decision to carry on as a band without Kelley and Hordinski.
Over the Rhine, with Tift Merritt
When: 8 p.m. Friday
Where: The Egg, Empire State Plaza, Albany
How Much: $24
More Info: 473-1845, www.theegg.org
“I could definitely hear why people would sort of line up around the block to see that band — when we were starting out, we had quite a bit of buzz around us, and we got to tour with people like Bob Dylan,” Detweiler said. “On the other hand, I also heard why maybe it was time to move on. I feel like we did some great work with that quartet, but also maybe that we sort of explored everything there was to explore there. It sort of made sense to me that it would have been time to mix it up.”
Bassist/keyboardist Detweiler and lead vocalist Bergquist have spent the past decade-plus doing just that on albums that push the boundaries of the band’s moody, folk-based sound. Their latest, the 19-song double album “Meet Me at the Edge of the World,” released in September, pays tribute to their home, which is affectionately dubbed The Nowhere Farm.
Once again, Detweiler and Bergquist assembled a new band for the recording, featuring drummer Jay Bellerose, lead and pedal steel guitarist Eric Heywood, bassist Jennifer Condos and multi-instrumentalist Nicholas Radina, and that group has also joined the duo on the road. The second leg of the tour began this month, and heads to The Egg on Friday night.
“Karin’s calling them The Band of Sweethearts,” Detweiler said. “The songs seem to really want to bloom with this band, and we’ve been getting a lot of lovely feedback from the people that have come out and found us so far, so it’s feeling good. . . . We were thrilled when everyone decided they wanted to take the music on the road.”
Detweiler and Bergquist sought out these players specifically to record the album. Working once again with Joe Henry, who also produced the band’s 2011 studio set “The Long Surrender,” the band recorded everything in just six days this spring — the three days before Easter Sunday, and the three days after.
“We recorded the first 10 songs the three days before Easter Sunday, and then took Sunday off, and it kind of felt like we had a record at that point,” Detweiler said. “So I said, ‘Why don’t we come back on Monday morning and see if we can make a better record?’ . . . Everybody was game — we knew we had enough songs for a double album, but we weren’t married to the idea of doing a double album. But everything went well and felt good, so that’s what we ended up with.”
Despite the quick sessions, where the band recorded everything live with few overdubs, the album’s 18 originals and a cover of The Band’s “It Makes No Difference” sound relaxed and stripped down, building on spare acoustic arrangements and Bergquist’s haunting vocals.
A father’ legacy
The songs came to the duo gradually. While albums such as 2005’s “Drunkard’s Prayer” and 2007’s “The Trumpet Child” were recorded after the two moved to the farm, neither had any material dealing with the farm. The songs didn’t start coming until after the 2008 death of Detweiler’s father, who was a frequent visitor to the farm and helped the couple settle in to their new surroundings.
“My dad said that he heard birds singing on our little hideaway farm that he hadn’t heard since he was a boy growing up on his family farm, and that would have been in the ’30s,” Detweiler said.
He always thought it was a special place — he encouraged us to ‘leave the edges wild,’ so that the birds would have secret hidden places to make untamed music. Karin and I didn’t know the names of much of anything, so my dad helped us begin to call the birds and trees by name. When he was gone, he was no longer around to do the naming for us, and I think partly in his memory I began to do the work of really trying to figure out what I was looking at, and it felt like an act of respect to call things by name. Once we started calling all the wildflowers, birds, trees and weeds by name, they began appearing in our songs.”
Detweiler also sings harmony and even lead on some songs, after being encouraged by Bergquist to step outside of his comfort zone.
“Somewhere along the way, when I was a pretty young boy, I just somehow decided that I was not gonna be singing — I don’t know, I just had kind of a hang up of some kind, and boy, it took me a long time to get over that,” Detweiler said. “A few years ago Karin was encouraging me to sing more with her, and I was talking about the fact that it’s almost like I have physical pain in my body when I sing. She said, ‘Why don’t you try singing through the pain?’ — seeing if there was something on the other side. ... For whatever reason, I had a little bit of a breakthrough — I don’t know if I learned to relax a little bit or what.”
Reach Gazette reporter Brian McElhiney at 395-3111 or firstname.lastname@example.org.