Classic Americana Albums: Over The Rhine “Drunkards Prayer”

Back Porch Records 2005

Never has the complicated, raw and unpredictable path to true love been better laid bare than this beautiful, stunning collection of heartfelt, highly personal songs. The core duo of Karin Bergquist, with her extraordinarily powerful voice, and Linford Detweller and his masterful keyboard playing, make up the band. In November 2003 they were promoting their album ‘Ohio’ and mid-tour crisis struck. Their marriage was in tatters and with so much at stake, they decided – for their relationship and for their music – they should take an instant break. Everything was put on hold.

Owning up to their problems, fans were concerned this could be the end. What they did was to allow themselves some unique personal time, to talk and re-assess their marriage and lives. A bold move indeed – and those months of soul-searching and honesty proved invaluable.

Drunkards Prayer‘ was the superb result – a collection of eleven songs that include some of their strongest material and an album that sounds as effective now as it did then. The opening five songs are simply wonderful and connected with audiences so well. The opener ‘I Want You To Be My Love’ is one of the most powerful love songs ever – a profound declaration of love with Bergquist singing “I want you to know me now” with such honesty and passion it takes one’s breath away. It’s apparently become a staple first dance song at many weddings and you can see why. ‘Born’ is a stunner – a song about the power of faith. “I was born to laugh, I learned to laugh through my tears, I was born to love, I’m gonna learn to love without fear” Bergquist sings with exquisite piano accompaniment from Detweller. Beautiful.

Track 3 is the best song. ‘Drunkards Prayer’ is a song about intense love – about yearning for that elusive complete love, that’s both sexual, spiritual and intellectual. Subtle piano playing is accompanied by some of the most searing vocals Bergquist has ever recorded. It’s augmented by some astonishing cello work from the brilliant David Henry. It’s a song that brings me almost to tears every time I hear it. ‘Bluer’ is a song about the possibility of separation and the combining of the duo’s vocals are perfection – making the song even more striking. ‘Spark’ shows the breadth of Bergquist’s vocals – in one song going from raspy and vulnerable to defiant, to troubled, to moody, to deeply sad. Quite astonishing. What an opening selection of songs. Remarkable.

The remaining songs are fantastic – including ‘Little Did I Know’ – which includes the lines that perfectly sum up the core of the album – “I tried, but I can’t imagine life without you. It’ll take work but let’s do this thing”.

Recorded entirely in their home – this album never fails to amaze, with its masterful songwriting, singing and musicianship. One reviewer at the time said – “this is the soundtrack to an evening at home with your oldest friends.” Sublime.

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Dave Cooper

Listening now. Great sounding. I was a big fan of Good Dog Bad Dog but sometimes their music feels so sad