Last Night: Over the Rhine at the Mucky Duck

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Over the Rhine McGonigel’s Mucky Duck February 6, 2008

Better Than: Super Tuesday… and most any other damned thing with Super attached to it lately.

Download: For the full flavor of Over the Rhine, check out “If A Song Could Be President” and “Jesus in New Orleans” here. See you in the voting booth.

If Cincinnati soft-rockers Over the Rhine ever decide to quit music, they can always go into the sardine business. The Duck was packed to the walls when the band took the stage promptly at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday; seldom has the place felt such pre-show electricity. Husband-and-wife team Karin Bergquist and Linford Detweiler wasted no time, delving immediately into the opening track from the quartet’s new The Trumpet Child album, “I Don’t Wanna Waste Your Time,” to set the tone for the evening: “I don’t wanna waste your time with music you don’t need.”

Tempting the gods, Bergquist segued into one of historic Cincinnati label King Records’s most notable hits, “Fever.” This could have easily become a cliché in less capable hands, but Bergquist and her ensemble breathed new life into this oft-covered blues chestnut.

Throughout the evening, Bergquist and Detweiler proved their songwriting prowess again and again. Each song had at least one telling line, like the aside in “Born” (“Thank God the joke is on me”) or the funny lament in “Drunkard’s Prayer” (“You’re my water, you’re my wine, you’re my whiskey from time to time”). Bergquist has a jazzy torch-singer voice perfect for such sentiments, and the band alternated easily between the light-heartedness of “I’m On a Roll” to the deadly seriousness of “Nothing Is Innocent.”

No one could recall when the last Grateful Dead-type drum solo was heard in the Duck, but with a jazz explosion worthy of Max Roach, drummer Mickey Grimm dropped jaws all around the room with help from bassist Jake Bradley. Ironically, the huge crowd that ranged from young Texas-music types to fuddy-duddy bankers was entirely subdued throughout the evening, owing perhaps to both the wholesomeness and understatement that typifies Over the Rhine and seemingly their fans.

While each song was truly a show-stopper, the band saved the choicest morsel for the final song of their encore. “If A Song Could Be President” name checks Patsy Cline and our own favorite son Lightnin’ Hopkins, and was bound to bring down the house with lines like “Break out of this minor key, half-truths and hypocrisy, we wouldn’t need an underachiever-in-chief; if a song could be president, we’d make Neil Young a senator, even though he came from Canada, Emmylou would be ambassador, world leaders would listen to her.”

Personal Bias: Any band with a song that mentions Lightnin’ Hopkins and presidential politics in the same breath is OK by me. Let’s hope these folks get to play at the Inaugural Ball next year, ‘cause both parties need to hear what they’re saying.

Random Detail: Maybe Karin Bergquist’s line "I've got a different scar for every song and blood left still to bleed" should appear on all of Over the Rhine’s albums, like a Surgeon General’s warning on a pack of cigs.

By the Way: Get your tickets early next time. These folks sold the place out weeks ago and passed on the chance to add a second show. – William Michael Smith

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