Over the Rhine broadens its fan base
By Regis Behe
TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Friday, February 22, 2002

Familiarity, the saying goes, breeds contempt. Or at least indifference.

Last year, Cincinnati's Over the Rhine broadened its fan base, touring
nationally with the Cowboy Junkies and playing concerts in 13 European
cities.

At home, their efforts, while not ignored, did not exactly set the Queen
City ablaze.

"We'll go to Chicago and play two sold-out shows," says songwriter and
multi-instrumentalist Linford Detweiler, who will make a stop with the band
Thursday at Rosebud, Strip District. "Sometimes, it feels like some of the
other cities are more excited about us than Cincinnati."

Not that Detweiler is complaining. With lead singer (and wife) Karin
Bergquist, the duo has been a regional staple since 1989, joining the Afghan
Whigs and the Ass Ponys as Cincinnati's most notable musical exports.

Truth be told, however, Over the Rhine isn't soon going to rival any of the
hitmakers of the day by making music that is quietly intense, introspective
and thoughtful. "Films for Radio," the band's 2001 release, is an intricate,
seductive album of songs that do not easily fit into any sub-category of pop
or rock music.

"When we approached this album, we almost wanted each song to feel like a
little short film that almost could have been directed by different
directors," Detweiler says. "To my ear, each song kind of has a distinct
personality. It's all Over the Rhine, but for us, I feel like we covered
quite a bit of territory, musically."

Detweiler says the album's first tune, the ethereal, longing "The World Can
Wait," captures the theme of the record, with the line So fade to black and
white now/roll the movie of my life/inside my head.

"I think what all the characters in all the songs are trying to do is pan
back and see their lives and figure out where they've come from and where
they're headed," he says. "I think they're all old enough, the characters in
the songs, where they're able to pan back and think about the ground that
they've covered. Maybe, personally, that's what the record is about, just
maturing a little bit."

In other words, don't expect silly love songs. Like the Cowboy Junkies, and
even Bruce Springsteen (when he bothers to write), Over the Rhine addresses
concerns that mirror those of adults unable to escape time's inexorable
march.

"Music is always, without sounding too precious about it, a means of self
discovery," Detweiler says. "Doing anything creative is a great way to sort
of process the terrain you've covered, and a good way to sort of learn what
you truly care about."

Detweiler says the band is gaining more momentum and attention, partially
because of a record deal it signed with Back Porch Records, a Virgin
subsidiary. He says reviews for "Films for Radio," especially in Europe,
were positive, and that the group's foreign tour was "overwhelming."

"The question that kept being repeated was 'Where have you guys been?'"
Detweiler says, especially in Germany, where the band's name alone
resonates. "It was pretty exciting for us to play in Germany and
Scandinavia, and we sold more records in Paris than we did in all of Ohio."

Not that Over the Rhine is a nonentity at home. Detweiler says he and
Bergquist usually are recognized while running errands, and the band's
annual Christmas show sells out.

"It seems like there's a lot of support," he says. "But I know a lot of
those people drive in from other places, and I guess we have been on the
road the last three or four years. I can feel a sort of pulling away from a
regional thing."

Oh well. Cincinnati's loss is the rest of the world's gain.