From The Desk Of Over The Rhine: Where The Hell’s The Drummer? Part Two (Gillian Welch’s “Time (The Revelator)”)

It’s hard to believe that it’s been 20 years since Over The Rhine issued its debut album. The Ohio-based husband-and-wife duo of multi-instrumentalists/vocalists Linford Detweiler and Karin Bergquist have marked the anniversary with new album The Long Surrender, which was produced by Joe Henry at his Garfield House home studio and features an assortment of musicians handpicked for the project by Henry, including Lucinda Williams. Though Detweiler and Bergquist had never worked with Henry or his assembled backing band before, The Long Surrender was finished in less than a week. The fan-funded, 13-track album was just released via OTR’s Great Speckled Dog Records, which the duo named after Elroy, their much-loved Great Dane who passed away last year. Detweiler and Bergquist will also be guest editing all week. Read our brand new Q&A with Detweiler.

Linford: I have a special, secret category of music that I love, that I didn’t plan on loving or even categorizing. But one day it dawned on me that I was reaching for certain records over and over that didn’t have any drums recorded on them. As much as I love great drummers, there is often a different kind of space, or a different kind of mutual breathing, that occurs between musicians who aren’t relying on a drummer.

This quiet collection was recorded live at RCA Studio B in Nashville, Tenn., a non-descript studio with a history miles deep. Gillian Welch and partner David Rawlings sit down with two acoustic guitars, face each other on wooden chairs and play and sing into a few well-placed microphones: no studio wizardry, no digital tomfoolery, no overdubbing needed. You will be hard-pressed to find two human beings on planet earth who can play and sing together with this kind of effortless ensemble. It’s like their Siamese souls were separated at birth.

Time (The Revelator) contains 10 beautifully crafted songs haunted by the ghost of Elvis, whose ghost indeed turns up at various points throughout the project. “Everything Is Free” is a dead-on prophetic manifesto way ahead of its time that states where the music industry was headed, and Gillian declares fearlessly, “And I’m gonna do it anyway, even if it doesn’t pay.” There is one live track recorded at the Ryman called “I Want To Sing That Rock And Roll” that showcases David’s ability to playfully destroy a room with an acoustic guitar built well before WWII. And don’t worry Ms. Welch: You are singing rock ‘n’ roll. One could spend many an alcohol-infused night debating the difference between “rock” and “rock ‘n’ roll,” but David and Gillian are clearly the latter, in spades. “I Dream A Highway” is a slowed-down fever dream of beauty that lasts 14 minutes and rivals the best writing of Bob Dylan. Or, if Leonard Cohen had been born and bred in Macon instead of Montreal, he might have …

How an orphan raised in Southern California and educated at Berklee in Boston mixed her blood so authentically with red clay is indeed a mystery. But it’s best just to let the mystery be and enjoy this one. And, oh yeah, if I didn’t mention it: not a drummer within a country mile.

Video after the jump.

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