Cincinnati’s Over The Rhine took an extended break between 2007’s “The Trumpet Child” and its new release, “The Long Surrender.” As the band is normally quite prolific, fans might be expecting something huge. “The Long Surrender” isn’t it.
The band, centered around vocalist Karin Bergquist and pianist/guitarist Linford Detweiler, doesn’t live up to the group’s previous efforts. The group produced 20 phenomenal tracks in the two years it took to create the 2003 album “Ohio,” so it’s a little disappointing that the 13 tracks on “The Long Surrender” can’t touch “Ohio.”
The band isn’t known for having a particularly thick sound. Often, the only musical elements are Bergquist’s voice and Linford’s slow piano background. When this is the case, the narrative needs to be enthralling to keep the listener hooked.
Normally the group excels at producing prose, and Bergquist’s smooth, bluesy voice provides all the right intonations. Bergquist is as wonderful as ever, but the lyrical stories he tells are less enrapturing than normal. Songs like “Sharpest Blade” and “There’s a Bluebird in My Heart” are at best so-so in their effectiveness.
There are still positive moments present on the album, however. “The Laugh of Recognition” and “Infamous Love Songs” meld happy and sad elements, and the results are some deliciously bittersweet tracks.
This is not an album (or band for that matter) for people looking for upbeat. The band is generally at its best when the mood is mellow, and tracks like “Rave On” are danceable in name only.
“The Long Surrender” could have been a lot worse, granted. But after four years, Over The Rhine fans expected something bigger, if not better.