Blood Oranges in the Snow

Blood Oranges in the Snow—Over the Rhine's 13th studio album and third Christmas-themed release—is not your typical holiday collection. Less “Merry Christmas!” and more “How are we going to get through this Christmas?” the album demonstrates why husband-and-wife duo Linford Detweiler and Karin Bergquist refer to these releases as “Reality Christmas” music. The string-accompanied folk track “My Father's Body” puts you in a reflective mood about how fragile life is (“My father's body lies beneath the snow/Sometimes on Christmas Eve that's where I go”), while Merle Haggard's classic “If We Make It Through December” is one of those true-blue country tracks filled with palpable woe with only a sliver of hope on the horizon. Even “First Snowfall” hints at how our traditions and decorations don't necessarily age well and will struggle to make it through another holiday season. Detweiler and Bergquist give subtle, harmonious performances that are among their best yet, as they often simply tell stories without being melodramatic or overpowering in their vocal presentation. This is obviously not an overly joyful album, but there is beauty to be found in its universal themes. It's an engaging reminder that the holidays can be hard and heartbreaking, but that's reality and that's OK.