Updated: September 20, 2013 12:43PM
‘I don’t want to waste your time with music you don’t need,” purrs Karin Bergquist on the lead track from Over the Rhine’s 2007 album “The Trumpet Child.” Since beginning in 1989 as a sophisticated but powerful pop quartet, the group has never demonstrated an ability to produce throwaway material. Over the Rhine specializes in life-affirming, essential music.
Following the departure of guitarist Ric Hordinski and drummer Brian Kelley in the late 90s, Over the Rhine coalesced around the core husband-and-wife partnership of instrumentalist Linford Detweiler and vocalist Bergquist. The duo’s potent songwriting has evolved into an organic blend of torch-song pop, roots music and jazz.
The pair’s latest album “Meet Me at the Edge of the World” mines virtue and beauty from the rural landscapes of their farm in Ohio. Simple, everyday experiences become epiphanies during songs like “Favorite Time of Light.”
Bergquist’s intoxicating vocals on the bluesy “Baby if this is Nowhere” are earthbound and sensual. On “I’d Want You,” she’s otherworldly and angelic.
Detweiler’s lyrics and conversational singing during songs like “Earthbound Love Song” reveal the soul of a potential poet laureate for his home state, combining literate prose with homespun wisdom. Although OTR’s new music emphasizes rustic string textures, Detweiler’s occasional parlor piano is a time machine to sepia-toned, bygone days.
Much of the band’s appeal stems from appreciation for artistic companions who have anchored each other through thick and thin, while maintaining clear admiration for each other. During a concert at Illinois’ Cornerstone Festival, Detweiler paused in the course of a piano introduction steeped in rural Gospel music. As Bergquist took the stage in a bright red pantsuit, Detweiler smiled. “You look like the Fourth of July,” he said, returning to his work. “I still get shivers when I hear you singing down the hall,” he adds during the new “All Over Ohio.”
See the fireworks at Park West on Sept. 20.
♦Over the Rhine, with Milk Carton Kids, 7:30 p.m., Friday, Sept. 20, Park West, 322 W. Armitage Ave., (773) 929-5959; parkwestchicago.com. SPOTIFY playlist: http://spoti.fi/151Yttt
Jeff Elbel is a Sun-Times free-lance writer.