Cincinnati is a music town. Sure, the powers that be can call it a baseball town or a food town, and we certainly have those elements to celebrate, but the music is always there. Sometimes the region supports it, and sometimes they turn their backs on it, but the music remains. Cincinnati has produced innumerable bands over the years, spanning genres and levels of popularity, from single club shows to national acclaim. With the release of Love & Revelation, the 18th studio album from inveterate Cincinnati group Over The Rhine, the band show once again why they continue to enjoy the adoration of their fans.
The album opens with an acoustic guitar quietly strumming as the lyrics gently tell us, “I cried all the way from Los Lunes to Santa Fe” -- just like that, you’re hooked, invested in this story of heartache that plays throughout the album, never feeling truly resolved. The next song, “Given Road,” opens with low, minor, almost lurking strings, telling another story of a heart encumbered. “Let You Down” plays less like a song than an intimate look at a love letter set to a beautiful soundtrack. The plaintive “Broken Angels” has lyrics that sound more like a confession in a diary.
The title track, released as a single in advance of the album, temporarily puts down the quiet introspection of the previous songs in favor of a big beat and some of singer Karin Bergquist’s more soulful vocals on the album. The vibes quiets a bit again with “Making Pictures,” a song with easy hooks that I found myself humming hours later. “Betting On The Muse” is deceivingly fun, a happy little relief in the middle of a very weighty album.
“Leavin’ Days” is a classic “moving on” song, with its insistent drums like a march, pushing the song forward. “Rocking Chair” starts with a rare electric guitar lick, kicking off another fun, light-hearted song. “May God Love You (Like You’ve Never Been Loved)” is another, more intimate moment, as if you were hearing not the words of a love letter, but the words of a lover’s prayer. The album closes with the instrumental “An American In Belfast,” a beautiful, gentle acoustic piece, devoid only of words, allowing the listener space to gently come to terms with the stories they have just lived.
Upon first listen, the songs all feel familiar, yet on subsequent listens, they all feel fresh and new. But whether on the first listen or the tenth, this album feels unfailingly honest. The lyrics and music blend perfectly, creating as much of an emotional world as a musical one. The effect is that of creating a work that is warm and tender, like a dear, old friend returning on a summer afternoon -- no judgement, no pretense, just a warm embrace and a welcome, with conversations picking up as if nothing had changed.
Love & Revelation, like every album from Over The Rhine, is always a welcome friend, indeed.
- Los Lunas*
- Given Road
- Let You Down
- Broken Angels
- Love & Revelation*
- Making Pictures
- Betting On The Muse
- Leavin’ Days
- Rocking Chair
- May God Love You (Like You’ve Never Been Loved)
- An American In Belfast