Daniel Amos’s “Dig Here Said the Angel”

Dedicated to Billy Corgan, who challenged Christians to “make better music” and branch out beyond U2’s musical blueprints in an interview with CNN in September. I challenge you to buy and bury yourself in this album, Billy; it sounds nothing like U2—in fact, Daniel Amos influenced U2!

Just as the films Sunset Boulevard and American Beauty are narrated by dead men, so too is the Daniel Amos song “Now That I’ve Died.” Unlike these undead narrators, however, the protagonist of the song is literally better off dead.

“I lost my stiff, stiff neck and my hard, hard heart / my self-respect is off the charts,” he sings. “Just hanging out here on the Other Side / dead to my pride, now that I’ve died.”

The song simmers for most of its duration and ultimately reaches a boil. In five minutes, the band reimagines the resurrection life, and succeeds in clearing the clouds of harpists who spend all of eternity bored out of their God-fearing gourds.

“Now That I’ve Died” is one of many highlights on Dig Here Said the Angel, Daniel Amos’s fourteenth proper studio recording in a career that spans almost forty years. To fund the record, the band launched a Kickstarter campaign in 2012, hoping to raise $14,000; fans donated over $32,000.

The result is my favorite album of 2013 thus far.

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Leaving the Edges Wild: An Interview with Over the Rhine, Part 1

Guest Post

By Meredith Holladay

September 3 marked the release of Over the Rhine’s newest album Meet Me at the Edge of the World, a double album of nineteen songs. Karin Bergquist and Linford Detweiler have been making music together since 1989, the same year Image Journal was founded. Both have a rich identity of exploring the outskirts of art, faith, and mystery.

Linford and Karin crowd-sourced funding for their previous album, The Long Surrender, the new record, and with Meet Me, they even opened Nowhere Farm—their farm in southern Ohio—to contributing fans for two nights of concerts, food, and stories. Welcoming fans to their farm was important, as the place has a unique presence on the new album.

After moving to their farm, Linford’s father gave them the advice to “leave the edges wild,” an idea that has captivated them in their cultivation of both their land and their music. I spoke to Linford about place, songwriting, the sacred, and what’s next for Over the Rhine.

Meredith Holladay: Describe the experience of having your fans at Nowhere Farm?

Linford Detweiler: It was meaningful—a little nerve-wracking for Karin to contemplate having 500 folks in her back yard, but a lovely weekend. We put up a circus tent and played the songs that had grown out of the soil of Nowhere Farm for the folks that pitched in generously to help us record Meet Me at The Edge Of The World. When the tent came down, we couldn’t tell anything had happened—no trash lying around. Those that attended were very respectful. It felt like a celebration.

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Sarah Masen: The Trying Mark, Part 1

Guest Post

By Angela Doll Carlson

The first time I heard Sarah Masen sing was at the Bluebird Café in Nashville. Sarah took the stage after being introduced as a “songwriter’s songwriter” and a “musician’s muse.” She carried a rich burgundy mandolin and wore denim high-water overalls and heavy boots, her long hair twisted in two small knots near the top of her head. Her wide, welcoming smile was striking and her strong, wiry build made it seem as though, like a bird, she was made to take flight. And when she began to sing, she did take flight, right there at the Bluebird Café.

Originally from Detroit, Michigan, Sarah wrapped her fingers around the neck of the guitar beginning in the mid nineties. Her self titled solo album, released in 1996, garnered considerable attention from the music community and was a solid launch base for her subsequent works which included Carry Us Through in 1998, The Holding in 1999 (a re-release of a previous project), and The Dreamlife of Angels in 2001, as well as a trio of EP projects in 2007: Women’s Work Is Alchemy, A History of Lights and Shadows and Magic That Works.

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The Choir: Children of Krakatoa

Parker & Coward, Krakatoa Eruption (1888)

On August 26, 1883, the people of Perth, Western Australia, paused to register what historians have referred to as “the loudest sound ever heard.” Almost 2,000 miles away, a volcanic eruption on the Indonesian island of Krakatoa rocked the world, obliterating two-thirds of the island, and causing tsunamis that killed over 36,000 people.

In 2012, atmospheric alternative rockers The Choir titled their fourteenth record The Loudest Sound Ever Heard, too—a decidedly ironic move for the Nashville, Tennessee-based outfit. The band has made unassuming, understated alternative-rock for almost thirty years, after all, relying more often on restraint than bombast.

It was for this reason, in fact, that I dismissed the band’s music as a teenager in the early nineties. When compared to the heaviness of sludgy Seattle grunge—a sound that stole my heart and never returned it—The Choir felt like a featherweight act to me. Frontman Derri Daugherty’s vocals had all the innocence of a songbird’s, and I preferred Kurt Cobain’s world-weary wail.

A classmate insisted on introducing me to Nirvana’s Nevermind album on his Walkman on a youth group ski trip, and I had obliged him, albeit reluctantly. For my teenage mind, the sacred and the profane existed in compartmentalized, cordoned-off spaces—seldom overlapping and, more often than not, existing at odds with one another. [Read more...]

Over the Rhine’s Sound of Place

Guest Post
Brian Volck


“Somewhere is better than anywhere.”
—Flannery O’Connor


Early in the film, Lone Star, written and directed by John Sayles, a man poking about in the Texas borderlands says, “You live in a place, you should learn something about it.” Karin Bergquist and Linford Detweiler have lived in and learned about Ohio most of their lives: rural childhoods, Malone College where they met, and music-making in the historic Cincinnati neighborhood from which their band, Over the Rhine, takes its name.

Now living in a nineteenth-century house in Highland County, Ohio, the married singer-songwriter duo has spent recent years learning the ways of what they call “Nowhere Farm,” the names of the birds and trees at home there, and the rhythms of the day in a place where, heeding the advice of Detweiler’s father, they’ve kept the edges wild.

While Meet Me at the Edge of the World, Over the Rhine’s new double-CD release, isn’t the first to emerge from Nowhere Farm, it documents a deepening attention to and appreciation of place. Through thoughtful lyrics and tunes drawn from the deep American musical tradition, it’s clear how much Bergquist and Detweiler have become, in agrarian writer Wes Jackson’s words, “native to this place.” [Read more...]