Over the Rhine: Blood Oranges in the Snow

Holiday Pick

Over the Rhine: Blood Oranges in the Snow

Many of us have been turned off by the commercialism and the manic shopping syndrome that threatens to spoil the holiday season; one would hope that something deeper was involved. Fortunately the real point comes into focus when listening to the new release by Over the Rhine, Blood Oranges in the Snow. Rather than call this nine-song CD a Christmas record, I’ll say that in various ways it touches on the subject without including any cuts that seems likely to become standard caroling material. Produced by Joe Henry, Over the Rhine’s two previous albums have been highly ambitious and intricately crafted; this self-produced recording retains their Americana sound while offering a more casual feel that fits the material well. The record starts quite nicely, the title track anticipating a long list of Christmas events, with Karin Bergquist singing in a relaxed style that marks a mature vocalist. She’s even better on Merle Haggard’s “If We Make It Through December,” the best track on the album. Vocally Linford Detweiler is much more limited, but I like how the two voices intertwine on “My Father’s Body.” Although a couple tracks near the middle of the record seem heavy handed, the closing selections, “First Snowfall” and “New Year’s Song,” are as warm, inviting, lyrically rich, and inspiring as the opening cuts. Ultimately this “Reality Christmas” record won’t depress you or make you hate the holiday season. It has too much warmth and compassion and love for that—all things we need plenty of during a time that can be stressful but can also remind us of the things that really matter.