The Innocence Mission: The Brotherhood of Man

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From the Proprietor:

This is an album review from my good friend Ben Shive, whose musical opinion holds a lot of water in my book (a mixed metaphor that is so strange a picture I decided to leave it). I have The Innocence Mission’s hymns record, and it’s in regular rotation on Sunday mornings at the Warren. I haven’t heard this record yet, but Ben makes a compelling case for how I should spend my next ten bucks.

innocencemission.jpgI stood in the parking lot with tears welling up in my eyes. The parking lot was the rendezvous point for a road trip I was embarking on with a friend. The tears in my eyes were occasioned by the lyrics to “The Brotherhood Of Man,” which I had just read from the insert of my friend’s copy of The Innocence Mission’s album, We Walked In Song.

All day, since your haircut in the morning
You have looked like a painting, even more than usual
We are in the wind, planting the maples
We meet an older man who seems to know I miss my dad
And he smiles through the limbs
We talk easily with him
Until the rain begins
This is the brotherhood of man

Waiting at the airport on my suitcase
A girl traveling from Spain became my sudden friend
Though I did not learn her name
And when the subway dimmed a stranger lit my way
This is the brotherhood of man

I never can say what I mean
But you will understand
Coming through clouds on the way
This is the brotherhood of man

It’s all I can do not to print the entire sleeve of the record here*. We Walked In Song is so lyrically picturesque it’s almost a photo album. A treatise on brotherly love, these songs collectively speak a blessing on humanity. As Karen Peris, the band’s front-woman and writer, sings benediction after benediction–to her children, to loved-ones lost, to the brotherhood of man–her voice is the sound of love sweetly bearing grief. All this is couched in melodies and harmonies that radiate warmth, with generally sparse and understated accompaniment. Guitars, piano, harmonium, and touches of percussion are usually all that adorn the lyric. There’s very little drum set on the record, and it’s frequently saved for the end of a song. When the drums finally kick in, however, The Innocence Mission sounds like The Sundays in a rainy-day mood, and that’s a very good thing.

This band has been making music for a number of years and I have sadly been unaware of them until now. But from the opening bars of We Walked In Song, I knew that The Innocence mission and I were old friends just meeting.

*Here’s a link: http://www.theinnocencemission.com/walked_lyrics.htm

As a singer-songwriter and recording artist, Andrew has released more than ten records over the past fifteen years. His music has earned him a reputation for writing songs that connect with his listeners in ways equally powerful, poetic, and intimate. He has also followed his gifts into the realm of publishing. His books include the four volumes of the award-winning Wingfeather Saga.


6 Comments

  1. tony kevin

    Great song. I too get tears when I listen. The Innocence Mission is a brilliant band. And I guess (I’ve been told) It’s Sufjan Steven’s all time favorite. That’s saying something, I’ll wager.

  2. Curt McLey

    @curtmcley

    Sixpence None the Richer and Leigh Nash used to consistently cite The Innocence Mission as an influence. Thanks for the introduction, Ben.

  3. Greg Adkins

    I wholeheartedly agree. It really is a crime that this band isn’t more widely known and respected. I would put their album “Glow” in my all time top 5 without even having to think about it… track that one down if you haven’t heard it as it is fantastic from start to finish. “Birds of my Neighborhood”, “Christ is my Hope”, and “Small Planes” are wonderful too. Heck, get “Befriended” while you’re at it. the only records I don’t like quite as much are “Umbrella” and “The Innocence Mission” but that is mainly a production thing…those records had them sounding much more produced and keyboard heavy. On “Glow” they started to become who they are now and that’s probably the best starting point to lead you to where they are now.

  4. clyde Silla

    this one of the best albums of the year. i honestly doubted they still had it, but I was wrong, and i am sorry i ever doubted Karen and Don.

    Glow is insane good. Birds of My Neighborhood is the ultimate. Greg, you may be the one person who has more of their albums with me. I have as old as their self-titled.

    Oh man. Oh man. Great review.

  5. Filippo Morelli

    Wow … if you’ve only just found out about The Innocence Mission … time to saddle up and get the rest of the music. The early stuff is awe inspiring. Don Peris, Karen’s husband and guitarist of the band, has a unique playing style which interlaces with Karen’s voice. I was fortunate enough to stand in front of Karen and Don, circa … wow … 1990 or so and just melt to their lyrics.

    BTW, they have a children’s album that will put a smile on some of Andrew’s past pursuits.

  6. The Rabbit Room

    […] Their hymns record is beautiful. It plays right after Fernando on Sunday mornings. Their new record, which I don’t know nearly as well yet, was reviewed in the Rabbit Room here. […]

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