“I’m sitting outside on our back porch right now, looking east through some giant Red Maples that the pioneers planted a hundred years ago and through some Black Locust trees,” begins Linford Detweiler, the husband, pianist and guitarist of the band Over The Rhine. “Our nearest neighbor is about six-tenths of a mile down the road. I see our little writing shack out there and our garden. I got two dogs lounging on the grass in the sun.”
Something catches his eye during this description of his idyllic enclave and without pause, the words tumble from Detweiler like a sportscaster announcing the big game: “And there’s a giant moth flying around that looks like a hummingbird! Wow, what are those things called?”
So much of this soliloquy is representative of Over The Rhine’s 20th album, Meet Me At The Edge Of The World. The Ohio-based band—founded by Detweiler and his wife, the songwriter and primary singer Karin Bergquist—has established itself as one of the trailblazers of guy-girl folk groups that seems to have inspired protégés like The Civil Wars, The Swell Season and Angus & Julia Stone. Over The Rhine’s new double album, which is rooted in the mysteries and comforts of Detweiler and Bergquist’s Nowhere Farm (or Now-Here Farm, depending on your perspective), will be released Sept. 3 via the band’s own Great Speckled Dog label.
Comprised of 18 original songs and a cover, Meet Me At The Edge Of The World retains the same deeply honest and personal nature that originally attracted the band’s unwaveringly devoted fan base (the same audience that successfully funded both this album and 2011’s The Long Surrender without the use of crowd sourcing sites like Kickstarter). Steady-paced and soothing, the album also features Aimee Mann singing on the snarling “Don’t Let The Bastards Get You Down” and Van Dyke Parks playing accordion on the gentle closer “Favorite Time Of Light,” as well as a heartbreaking cover of The Band’s “It Makes No Difference.”
But so much of Meet Me At The Edge Of The World revolves around the century-and-a-half-year-old farmhouse that the couple has called home since 2004. Detweiler acknowledges that finding the land signified a new chapter for him and Bergquist, but that they struggled to find the proper names for all the new wildlife and nature surrounding them.
Detweiler recalls that his father not only helped with the naming process, but also offered the couple a resonant piece of advice: leave the edges wild. “Those words just rang in our souls,” he says. “It became a metaphor for writing and for how we wanted to live our lives.”
The line finds its way into songs like “Called Home,” “All of It Was Music” and “Against The Grain” and the metaphor offered a kind of justification for the “bit of extra real estate” Detweiler says.
He continues, “A few years after we moved out here, my father passed away and he was no longer around to do the naming for us. We really began to try to call things by name as an act of respect to this place and also as an exercise to honor my father’s memory. Once we started calling things by name, they started to appear in our songs and it felt like we were learning a new poetic language.
“That really began to get into our bones. It really made the place start to feel like home, once we started calling things by name. We realized we had a few dozen songs that were loosely revolving around this place and that became our new double album, Meet Me At The Edge Of The World.
When it came time to record the album, though, Over The Rhine decided to return to Southern California to work with producer Joe Henry (who contributed to The Long Surrender). The group of studio musicians Henry recruited will also be joining Over The Rhine on tour this fall.
With the farm as their rock and refuge from the road, Over The Rhine seems to have reached a certain inner peace on Meet Me At The Edge Of The World. Detweiler looks back, “I think there’s been in some of our other records much more of a restlessness or maybe even dealing with some anger or guilt or loss from our past.”
Sitting on his back porch, with those memories behind him and the rolling fields wildflowers and wildlife ahead Detweiler muses, “More than any other record that we’ve ever made, Meet Me At The Edge Of The World has a sense of arriving about it, a sense of arriving home.”