Over the Rhine is not the Official Band of Emergent. Over the Rhine is the official band of really smart, literary minded Christians, many of whom may designate themselves as Emergent or emerging.
In many ways, OTR is the perfect band for emerging Christianity. They are whip smart, take their Christian faith very seriously and it informs their art, lives and livelihood. The band has a multiplicity of leadership, of both genders and is a partnership based upon relationship as well as music. One of the leaders comes from an Anabaptist background which informs their art.
Like many of us, OTR has chosen at different times to live in the inner city and return to the simplicity of farm life. Their greatest quality is that OTR has always denied the existence of a line between secular and secular art, challenging both worlds with music too theological rich for Contemporary Christian art or Top 40 radio. They are the band Paste magazine was built for (along with their compatriots VOL).
The music is challenging, embracing modern acoustic, country, classic jazz and classical elements (albeit, very white styles). The lyrics deal with love, doubt, faith, philosophy, theological ruminations. Lyrically and musically deep with a transcendent singer with one of the most beautiful and haunting voices in musical history. What is not to love?
Hitting their stride on the haunting Good Dog, Bad Dog, the magnificent Films for Radio (their attempt for mainstream pop success) and the perfect Ohio, these albums dealt with what would considered the postmodern human condition dealing with life on earth as it longed for life after this life.
While I do not consider them to be the perfect band for Emerging Christians (and Emergent) to embrace as their "official" band, they are perfect for any smart, literary minded person that likes challenging their own belief system (Christian or not). They have been around a lot longer than Emergent has, informing many of the leaders of the conversation since college or grad school.
I have seen them a number of times, with perfection being a sold out show in Richmond in which they opened for the Cowboy Junkies (no other pairing could bring such female vocal perfection) and would recommend seeing them live if possible. My favorite albums are ones mentioned above, Eve.
Listen to them here.
Read their lyrics and get to know them here.