Geography defines the sound of many bands, from the ocean-kissed salty breeziness of SoCal pop-punk to gnarled indie riffs speckled by New York City's urban static and Seattle's cloudy grunge downpours. Still, few bands trace the contours and memories of the landscape better than Over the Rhine, which has embodied the pretense-free, spiritual, and scrappy essence of its native Cincinnati -- and Ohio in general -- since its members first recorded together in 1989. Helmed by the husband-wife songwriting team of old-souled vocalist Karin Bergquist and keyboardist Linford Detweiler, the rootsy folk collective weathered major-label woes and several subsequent years as a self-supporting indie group in the 1990s, while doggedly crafting tunes in which granola-dependent college kids, coffee-shop clove-smokers, and hippie poets alike could find solace.
Now settled in at the Virgin offshoot Backporch, the quintet chooses to define its music by geography on its double-disc August release, Ohio. An ambitious stroll through wintry pedal steel, old-time jazz, and understated piano maturity that Detweiler told the Dayton City Paper in May has "a lot of songs about Jesus and dying," the set is a natural accompaniment for the apple picking, frigid hayrides, and Metroparks hiking that make Ohio autumns magical.