Innocence Mission

“God is Love” – The Innocence Mission

Karen Peris, long-time front woman for the Innocence Mission, has an idiosyncratic purr of a voice, part velvet part parchment; it alternately soothes and cracks, sometimes doing both at once. She has an unplaceable accent and likes to sing of simple things out there from her Lancaster County abode, comfy in the 20-plus-years’ presence of her bandmate husband Don and his bandmate childhood friend Mike Bitts. The trio’s new album, My Room in the Trees, their ninth, is full of the outdoors, of weather and leaves and water and quiet neighborhoods. It is lovely, and this is one of the lovely songs on it, but with more of a toe-tapping beat than most of the others, with jazz-flecked acoustic guitar chords, gentle percussion, and what sounds like a hushed horn or woodwind but is actually a combination of pump organ, chromatic harmonica, and melodica, all played by Karen.

And given our fractious age, with tolerance and intolerance locked in misery on the cultural dance floor, I feel a need to comment briefly on the subject matter. Despite the title’s centrality to the lyrics, this is not an overtly religious song; its spiritual message in fact is so deeply ecumenical as to unify all but the most strident fundamentalists fuming away on the two extreme sides of the God-existence argument. I’ve seen one online review take the song to task for its lyrical simplicity, a criticism that never fails to amuse me. Ninety percent of all songs have simple lyrics. That’s why they’re songs. They rise or fall on the depth of the music, which can also appear simple in many cases. This song’s simplicity is part of its allure; purity has a place in our ears and hearts. Not a lot of indie music explores this place; I give these guys a lot of credit for making it look, and sound, as easy and comfortable as a conversation with old friends.

Which these guys, recording together since 1989, surely are. My Room in the Trees was released last week on Badman Recording Co.



  1. muruch on Thursday July 22, 2010

    I loved this post! This is actually one of my favorite songs on the album, but I wasn’t brave enough to mention it in my own review since I suspected the subject matter would spawn (undeserved) controversy. And yet that’s exactly what I love about the song. It would sound pretty no matter what the lyrical content contained, but I think it also shows courage on the band’s part since God/spirituality is not a popular topic for modern music.

  2. nat on Wednesday August 4, 2010

    I have a huge soft spot for this band, since they are fellow alumni of my high school and Karen’s older sister, Ann, was one of my best friends growing up. Karen’s older brother was a singer, too, and played at school assemblies, a la James Taylor. I love Karen’s voice and Don’s songwriting, even though I’m not much of a God person these days. I still count “Bright As Yellow” as one of my favorite songs ever.

  3. fingertips on Thursday August 5, 2010

    Well that is I think part of the beauty of the song, that you really don’t have to be a “God person” to like it, you maybe just have to be a “Love person.”

  4. Chris Dale on Tuesday December 14, 2010

    I know I am late to the party on this one, but as a fan of the bands since 1989 (one of the members is a friend of a friend type thing) I must comment that the band has always had religious themes. If you can find it, check out Every Hour Here on their second LP, Umbrella. It’s truly great.


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