Over the Rhine, A.K.A. the husband and wife duo of Karin Bergquist and Linford Detweiler, has always excelled when it comes to making music of the wrecked and wasted heart-wrenching variety, a sound flush with emotion and the most searing of sentiments. Yet, like Cowboy Junkies, their melodies often tend to be somewhat austere and of such low volume that any immediate impression is generally muted and less than overly expansive. On the deliriously beautiful "Meet Me At The Edge Of The World," they've quite literally upped the ante, producing what amounts to a double disc of stunning new songs (save a sole cover, The Band's It Makes No Difference
), recruiting some superb high profile guest stars in Aimee Mann and Van Dyke Parks, and placing Joe Henry at the helm, a producer clearly in sync with their haunting and harrowing sound.
With songs inspired by the 1830s era Ohio farm they call home, Bergquist and Detweiler birthed an album that's rich in emotional investment, a marked change from the occasionally distant and detached view they've conveyed before. The utterly alluring title track provides an enticing introduction, but the graceful lilt of the tracks that follow - Called Home, Don't Let the Bastards Get You Down, Highland County et. al. - keep to the high standard of that soothing embrace. The yearning vocal and acoustic strum of Gonna Let My Soul Catch My Body, the stealth-like sojourn Sacred Ground, the duo's gorgeous ode to their home state All Over Ohio, the comely Tracy Chapman-channeled blues of Baby If This Is Nowhere and the references to Johnny and June Cash on Earthbound Love Song don't necessarily mitigate their mournful mindset, but rather help to maintain a peak of interest throughout. That's no mean feat considering the slow burn that fuels the couple's expansive ambitions.
Likewise, the ability to clear the divide between dreary and dreamy becomes impressive indeed. Over The Rhine have made their masterpiece at last.