Over the Rhine – Blood Oranges in the Snow (Great Speckled Dog) review
A holiday album you can enjoy the entire Winter season
Over the Rhine, at their best, have the ability to transport the listener to far away places. For Blood Oranges in the Snow, we travel to rural Ohio in the chill of winter. This isn’t strictly a holiday album, per se, although much of the subject matter deals with snow and traveling. The duo of Linford Detweiler and Karin Bergquist have once again been joined by The Band of Sweethearts, the same group that has played on their last two fantastic records, The Long Surrender, and Meet Me at the Edge of the World. And, it’s their unique accompaniment that truly elevates the album.
The record opens with “Blood Oranges in the Snow.” And, while most would loathe snowy holiday travel, Bergquist remains the optimist, singing “the snow in our headlights / confetti in a parade.” Fueled by Jay Bellerose’s chugging percussion and Jason Goforth’s picturesque, pedal steel, it really does capture the feel of trudging home for the holidays. Make sure you listen to the very end – Goforth’s echoed harmonica is a real treat.
Detweiler takes a turn on vocals for “Another Christmas,” and his plain-spoken delivery gives a cozy, lived-in feel to the song. By contrast, “My Father’s Body” is a haunting, detached account of someone dealing with grief, with both Detweiler and Bergquist’s voices intertwining.
“If We Make it Through December” fits perfectly with the theme – you’d never guess it was written by Merle Haggard, while it’s “First Snowfall,” their own composition, that gets the twang treatment. UK musician Jack Henderson lends his gruff voice for the beautiful “Bethlehem.”
They saved the best for last in “New Year’s Song,” which features a cascading melody and lyrics “let’s stay home / and play old records / the future’s bright / the past is checkered.” Might not sound like a rockin’ good time, but coming from Bergquist, it sounds exotic. But, that’s not surprising. The couple has lived for years in rural southern Ohio, and Over the Rhine’s true gift is their ability to romanticize their surroundings.
Florida may be warmer, but after listening to Blood Oranges in the Snow, you’ll wish you were in Ohio too. —Tony Peters