It’s early morning at a rustic old farmhouse on the outskirts of Cincinnati, and Linford Detweiler is sitting on the front porch. His wife and bandmate, Karin Bergquist, is inside. There’s coffee. Birds are singing. Detweiler is weary, but chipper, eyeing the lazy circles of a red-tailed hawk soaring over his front yard.
In every way, it’s an exact picture of what you’d expect life to look like for the members of Over the Rhine.
“I’m a little road weary,” he says. “Karin and I have been doing this for over two decades. We have never taken a year off completely. There have been years that have been lighter than others, but I have never had more fun on the road than I’m having right now.”
Detweiler comes across like a kindly uncle. He’s familiar and honest, with a way of being vulnerable without making everyone uncomfortable.
“I think we’ve had a little bit of an antagonistic relationship with touring,” he says. “We always saw it as something that would go away eventually.”
He laughs at that notion.
“Somewhere along the line, I realized that I really need that connection with an audience. It completes the circle. We’re not trying to write songs in a vacuum. We’re wanting our songs to connect people and us in some real way with the world around us. And it’s—well, maybe you can feel that on our new record. It feels like we have finally found our groove.”
Leaning in and Whispering
It might take a long and impossible discussion to determine who, exactly, is the country’s most underappreciated band, but Over the Rhine certainly belongs in any such conversation. For two decades, they have seemed ever on the verge of their big break. They have released 13 albums—all critically lauded. Entertainment Weekly said there was “no more soothing voice in music than Karin Bergquist’s.” A.V. Club said there was “no rhyme or reason” as to why the band wasn’t more famous. They have acquired one of indie music’s most fiercely devoted fan bases, toured with Bob Dylan and appeared on too many “Greatest Living Songwriter” lists to name.
And yet, they have been saddled with a low-flying career—forever praised as the “best kept secret” of folk music, even as the genre’s recent revival seems to have come just a few years too late to really bring them any of that long-deserved acclaim.