Pat Robertson may truly believe that Hurricane Katrina was divine punishment on New Orleans, but the Ohio-based band Over the Rhine found Jesus there.
Over the Rhine is pianist/songwriter Linford Detweiler and his wife, singer/guitarist Karin Bergquist. Backed by drummer Devon Ashley and bassist Rick Plant, they'll bring intimate Americana to the Visulite on June 5.
In 1994, Bergquist and Detweiler traveled to the bayou to record part of the record Eve, a fierce supplication on broken relationships, the legacies of the Biblical Eve and her husband. In the middle of a journey through the darkness of humanity, they saw the light -- in a New Orleans tavern.
"There was a woman down there that crossed paths with Karin and I at a very pregnant time in our relationship," Detweiler says. "She just had a lot to offer both of us. She seemed like a little bit of a Messiah figure."
Almost a decade later, OTR released a bar-room honky-tonk number called "Jesus in New Orleans" on its rootsy double-album OHIO:
"The last time I saw Jesus, I was drinking bloody marys in the South/
She wore a dark and faded blazer with a little of the lining hanging out."
A woman named Katrina left a lot of New Orleans hanging out, and the new weight of the song was not lost on OTR as the group performed it last September. But for Detweiler, the mixtures of poverty and wisdom, joy and suffering, good and evil are nothing more than the stuff of life in America.
"That's the beauty and the tragedy of this country -- these contradictions," Detweiler says. "Without them, there could be no jazz music, no Johnny Cash or bluegrass music. I want people to feel a deep sadness and a deep joy simultaneously when they hear our music. That's life, and we're packing as much of it into that three or four minutes as we can."
Over the Rhine plays the Visulite Theatre on Monday, June 5 at 9pm, with HEM. Tickets are $12 in advance, $14 day of show; info at www.visulite.com.