Over the Rhine’s new album, The Long Surrender, releases today. And in an act of shameless self-promotion, I’m linking to my interview with Over the Rhine’s Linford Detweiler, which appears this morning over at Christianity Today.
You might remember that lyrics from The Long Surrender inspired the Schmexas Advent meditations last December, during the week leading up to Christmas. This album is different from Over the Rhine’s previous recordings, a little darker and melancholic. But I wonder if it isn’t a little more sacred and holy, too. You’ll have to decide for yourself.
When I spoke with Detweiler, I asked him about the new album, but I also asked him about vocation, and beauty, and brokenness, and–of course–about community.
Here’s what he said about the influence of community on his writing and about what he sees as his musical inheritance. It’s very Schmexas-appropriate.
Karin and I both grew up around a lot of gospel music, hymns, church music. And we both spent some formative years in small coal towns near West Virginia, where there was a little bit of an Appalachian thing happening. We were hearing country and western music, and rock ‘n’ roll on our friends’ car stereos. I think I wrote in the liner notes to Ohio that it was kind of this strange musical world where Elvis was king and Jesus was Lord.
The first most influential community on me was my family. Both of my parents were raised on Amish farms, and musical instruments were essentially forbidden. As a child, my uncle had hidden an acoustic guitar in the barn and an accordion under the horse’s manger. There was this idea of forbidden music. That has been a huge influence on me, inheriting that part of my family’s story, because it reminds me that there is something dangerous and subversive about songwriting, and if I’m not risking anything as a writer I might be wasting people’s time.
The other beautiful image as far as the community of my family is my mother wanting a piano as a child. She wasn’t allowed to have a piano, so one of her school teachers helped her cut out a cardboard keyboard and bring it home to her bedroom, and she would play her cardboard keyboard and hear the music that was only inside of her. Forbidden music.