Joe Henry, Milk Carton Kids, Over the Rhine
Wild Edges: A Collaboration
DUKE PERFORMANCES PREMIERE: FRI, APR 11 & SAT, APR 12, 2014
Cincinnati duo Linford Detweiler and Karin Bergquist, better known as Over the Rhine, have been making gorgeous records for two decades that sound like “they sprung from another time” (Los Angeles Times). Singer-songwriter Joe Henry spent the same decades writing and performing songs that seem “to inhabit an older music that never actually existed or one that keeps being forgotten and relearned over and over” (Slant Magazine).
Henry and Over the Rhine first came together when Henry produced OTR’s acclaimed 2011 album The Long Surrender; Henry likewise produced their 2013 album Meet Me at the Edge of the World. For one weekend in Durham, they added to that mix burgeoning indie folk duo The Milk Carton Kids. The result was a one-of-a-kind ensemble set to engage, according to Henry, the “Great American Songbook,” performing a set of original songs that “embraces songwriters from Robert Johnson to Jimmy Webb, Woody Guthrie to Nina Simone.”
The all-star group united for an only-at-Duke Performances special event. Joe Henry, Over the Rhine, and The Milk Carton Kids performed and recorded an album’s worth of new songs they wrote together, Wild Edges, in front of a live audience at Hayti Heritage Center on the weekend of April 11 & 12, 2014.
A few short years ago, I was commissioned to create an evening of new music for a special pair of performances in April 2014, at the behest of Duke University and its much-heralded series curator, Aaron Greenwald.
To do so, I immediately enlisted my dear friends Karin Bergquist and Linford Detweiler — the two that make the band Over the Rhine — to be my collaborative partners; and from there, we have extended the borders of our collective frame to also include The Milk Carton Kids — Joey Ryan and Kenneth Pattengale — an astonishing neo-folk duo who are making great hay and much noise upon the land.
Our concept is as simple as it is challenging and liquid: to write an evening’s worth of new songs together that will stand, no matter how abstractly or cozily, in response to existing pieces from the Great American Songbook.
Understand, please, that when we refer to the “Great American Songbook,” we who are forward-thinking pilgrims striding out of the folk tradition aren’t limiting ourselves to the domain of Cole Porter and the Gershwin brothers as points of reference: but rather leave open the notion that the expanse of that term might also embrace songwriters from Blind Willie McTell and Hank Williams, to Duke Ellington, Jimmy Webb and Woody Guthrie — thus, so might we. The new works may arrive as direct responses to existing and familiar songs, and might extend and alter their narratives. Or they may simply have grown like moss out of the humid thematic or sonic atmosphere of a particular song we have all lived with for ages.
Our impulse is to align ourselves — and thus invite you, our kind audience, into that alliance — with the enduring power of songs that stand yet as living players upon the landscape; songs that by their history and endurance serve up real-time engagement and invite return volley; songs that explain us to each other.
My friends and I are grateful to all of you who have come to listen.
— Joe Henry
- INDY Week, Live Review: Over the Rhine, Joe Henry and The Milk Carton Kids quietly stun
- CVNC, Wild Edges: A Collaboration
- Duke Chronicle, Joe Henry and others bring ‘poetic spirit’ to Hayti