Isn’t it wonderful when a live audience knows how to be quiet?

It doesn’t happen much anymore — musicians casting such a spell over the audience that they can put down their instruments mid-song and let the vocalist’s voice resonate without any violating whistles or noises from the crowd.

But it happens on Live from Nowhere, Volume One, the new live collection from Over the Rhine.

“This is our loungey Christmas show,” says Karin, and then dedicates “Fever” to a couple on a date in the crowd. Christmas music has never been sexier.

Live from Nowhere, Volume One is the first collection of what Linford Detweiler and Karin Bergquist intend to make a series. Each year they’ll put out a collection of outstanding live tracks. And that’s good news for fans who consider their concerts to be as important as any other once-a-year event.

They’re off to quite a start. Volume One features a jazzier, more relaxed version of the band than the gale-force rock combo of Changes Come, their last live record. And that’s perfect considering the material they’ve chosen: a mix of bluesy OTR classics, covers, and songs from the recent Drunkard’s Prayer.

One of my favorites, “Faithfully Dangerous,” kicks things off beautifully, with Karen’s voice in fine form, followed by a powerful rendition of “Spark” which is dedicated to John Lennon.

The performance of “Born” is arguably superior to the album version, but the turbo-boosted version of “Looking Forward” kicks the album version down the street and back again. Suddenly a song that hardly registered with me before is rocking my world.

Glowing with the same sincere glow as “Born,” “White Horse” will serve as a warming Christmas lullaby on any cold winter’s night.

Those who cherish the songs on Good Dog Bad Dog as much as I do will probably weep for joy at the dazzling, dreamy version of “Etcetera Whatever” that’s included here.

What could be better than hearing this woman sing “Son of a Preacher Man” to her husband… who IS the son of a preacher man? Uma Thurman may have stolen the song with her Pulp Fiction dance scene, but Karin Bergquist has just stolen it back. And then she steals “Moondance,” just to show off.

If there’s a drawback to the record, well, Over the Rhine collectors already have “My Love is a Fever” on several collections and, well, here it is again. But I wouldn’t really call that a drawback, not with a song that’s as much fun as this one.

And it all wraps up with a sprightly, playful version of “Paper Moon.”

Sort of.

Like Changes Come, this live record would make a perfect introduction to Over the Rhine for any family or friends in your life who have not yet discovered them.

But then again, we wouldn’t want them to get more popular than they already are, right? I mean, the more people who know about them, the more competition there is for tickets to their shows.

Will I be seeing you at their Neumo’s show in Seattle on May 7th?

Or at their performance in Santa Fe during the Glen Workshop?

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