Over the Rhine remains faithful to Kent

Allan Lamb

Courtesy Shore Fire

Credit: Ron Soltys

Cincinnati natives Over the Rhine return once again to the Kent Stage on Friday.

“Northeast Ohio has a special place in our hearts,” said Linford Detweiler, the band’s pianist, who grew up in Hartville.

The folk/alternative/pop band formed in 1989 in Over-the-Rhine, a neighborhood in urban Cincinnati. Originally a quartet, Over the Rhine is now a duo featuring Detweiler and his wife Karin Bergquist on vocals, whom he met when they both attended Malone College in Canton. They are now the only two remaining members from the original line-up.

They record and tour with various musicians on the other instruments. Detweiler and Bergquist also play acoustic guitar on various songs.

They adopted the name of their neighborhood due to attachment to the area.

“I lived there for ten years in a cheap apartment there and got to know a lot of the locals,” Detweiler said. “Over-the-Rhine is one of the bad parts of town… A lot of people were thrilled that we could bring something positive associated with that name.”

They have toured with many different artists including Bob Dylan and Cowboy Junkies. They are especially well-known and praised for their gripping and sincere lyrics.

“Being sincere or earnest seems to be uncool. Being ironic and a little bit detached or cynically playful seems to be the fashion. We’re OK with being uncool,” Detweiler said, adding that Van Morrison is probably the most sincere musician still recording.

“We’re more into getting out there and being messy with it; stuff we really think about,” he said.

About why he thinks musicians tend to stay away from that Detweiler said that “if you’re always a little bit detached, you have nothing to lose…When you open up and say how you really feel, you risk being seen as a fool…I think you can tell intuitively when someone is being authentic about where they come from and what they care about. That’s what I’m interested in.”

The band has released four albums over the last year: their studio album The Trumpet Child, Live from Nowhere, Volume 2, a compilation called Discount Fireworks and most recently their Christmas album, Snow Angels.

“We kind of snuck it out last year and sold it at a few of our Christmas shows,” Detweiler said of the Christmas album.

If you’re expecting typical holiday tunes, that’s not what you’ll get from Snow Angels. All the songs are original and don’t stray from Over the Rhine’s signature sound.

“We wanted it to feel like a real record and not just something we threw together for Christmas,” he said. “It took us ten years to write all the songs for it.”

The band released their first Christmas album The Darkest Night of the Year in 1996 and Detweiler said that the band plans to release one every ten years.

Detweiler said that the band has kept Kent a part of their regular tour route for several reasons.

“Playing great American college towns is what we like to do,” he said. “People [in Kent] seem to have an appreciation for roots music and folk music. People seem to appreciate those deep American traditions.”

Over the Rhine used to play at Brady’s, the now-defunct coffee shop that was bought out by the Starbucks.

“Brady’s was one of those hangouts where anyone who had literary inclinations and songwriters and poets would come together and rub shoulders,” Detweiler said.

Since the close of Brady’s, Over the Rhine has played their Kent dates at the Kent Stage.

“We love that. We like ragged old theaters with red velvet seats and pianos with broken hearts,” said Detweiler. “It’s a good venue for our music.”

Contact all reporter Allan Lamb at [email protected].