Linford Detweiler’s extraordinary piano playing and Karin Bergquist’s emotion-filled voice make Over the Rhine’s latest, Drunkard’s Prayer, a soul-satisfying listen. Recorded entirely in their living room, the spare and simple songs speak of love and loss, grace and spirit, and of going out and coming back home. Back Porch Records.
(Come On Feel the) Illinoise is Sufjan Stevens’ fifth album and the second in his ambitious 50 states series. The 22 songs and instrumental pieces are mostly short, and in them this New York-based Michigan native creates a whole world and invites you to step inside. He covers a lot of ground: Native Americans, the boy from the log cabin, the windy city, the great fire of Chicago—all without a warmed-over blues riff or second-hand idea. Stevens not only follows up the geographic particularity of 2003’s Greetings from Michigan, but also maintains the spiritual savor and instrumental richness of last year’s Seven Swans. This latest work carries gorgeous melodies, lush instrumentation, impeccable arrangements, and polished harmonies. Asthmatic Kitty Records.
Country-folk musician Iris DeMent’s wavering and slightly tinny voice is an acquired taste for some, but for others she delivers a dose of pure, sweet soul. Lifeline is a collection of traditional spirituals—“Blessed Assurance,” “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms,” and the less-familiar but beautiful “Hide Thou Me,” among others—that DeMent sang in her early pentecostal days. Here they are in their spare and pleading glory. FlariElla Records.