Karen Peris, a lover of poetry, and Don Peris have together been the artistic force behind The Innocence Mission. The parents of two small children, they profess belief in the Roman Catholic faith. Each is the product of years of Catholic schooling, and religious undertones are clearly evident both in their lyrics and in the tone of their melodies, which sometimes veer toward chanted intonation.
The Innocence Mission was founded as a foursome of schoolmates. Karen McCullough was already a vocalist and songwriter when she entered Lancaster Catholic High School a few years later. There she teamed up with Don Peris, a guitarist whom she would eventually marry. The pair, joined by a bass-playing schoolmate, Mike Bitts, and drummer Steve Brown, performed as a quartet in their school's production of Godspell in 1982. After graduation the members went their separate ways to attend college during the mid-1980s.
The Innocence Mission reunited in 1986 and released an extended-play (EP) disc, Tending the Rose Garden, that same year. When Joni Mitchell heard the recording, she appreciated The Innocence Mission's uncluttered sound . Mitchell alerted veteran record producer Larry Klein to the group's potential, and Klein enlisted a colleague, Dennis Herring, to assist in producing The Innocence Mission's debut album, called The Innocence Missionand featuring 13 original songs--each penned by one or both of the Perises--the album was released in 1989. The Innocence Mission's debut was well received, and its eighth track, "I Remember Me," was issued also as a single and peaked on Billboard magazine's Top 200 at number 167.
The Innocence Mission reunited with Klein and Herring in 1991 and recorded a follow-up album, called Umbrella, featuring an all-new softer, more focused tone. The Innocence Mission found itself in popular demand in the early 1990s embarking on a tour with Natalie Merchant and Emmylou Harris. The Perises had already contributed music to Amy Grant's Lead Me On in 1987; Don was heard on Peter Himmelman's 1991 album From Strength to Strength, and Karen contributed to John Hiatt's 1990 release, Stolen Moments.
Glow was released in June of 1995 and earned recognition for Karen Peris, whose voice had matured dramatically as compared with earlier The Innocence Mission recordings. Although Top 40 success eluded The Innocence Mission, Glow found a niche on adult alternative radio. Selected tracks made mainstream inroads when they were heard on television's Party of Five and on the film soundtrack of Empire Records.
After the conclusion of their tour with Natalie Merchant and Emmylou Harris in 1996, The Innocence Missionreturned to Lancaster, where they resumed recording in an improvised studio in an old candy factory in the town's Keppel Building.
The Innocence Mission released Birds of My Neighborhood on the Kneeling Elephant label in August of 1999. The album marked Steve Brown's final appearance in the group's lineup. Around the same time an enhanced-play disc, called The Lakes of Canada was also released by Kneeling Elephant and picked up by RCA.
Christ Is My Hope, an independently produced project released in April of 2000, featured a selection of original hymns interspersed with traditional folk songs. Small Planes, released in 2001, offered an eclectic mix of outtakes and material recorded between 1996 and 2001. In September of 2003 The Innocence Mission released a seventh album, Befriended,on a San Francisco-based label, Badman Recording Co. Befriended was included on NPR's Top 10 releases of 2003.
In 2004, The Innocence Mission released Now The Day is Over, a collection of standards such as "Somewhere Over The Rainbow" performed as lullabies. Now The Day Is Overreceived endorsement Parenting magazine as a childrens record.
The Innocence Mission continued their march as critically loved purveyors of minimalist soundscapes with the 2007 release of We Walked In Song anf the 2008 EP Street Map (available only from The Innocence Mission website.)
Listen to Christian Music Artists The Innocence Mission
|I Remember Me||1989||A&M Records|
|The Innocence Mission||1989||A&M Records|
|Bright as Yellow||1995||A&M Records|
|Birds of My Neighborhood||1999||RCA Records|
|Christ Is My Hope||2000||Independent|
|Small Planes||2001||What Are Records?|
|Now the Day Is Over||2004||Badman Recordings|
|One for Sorrow Two for Joy||2004||Badman Recordings|
|We Walked in Song||2007||Badman Recordings|
|Street Map EP||2008||Umbrella Day Music|
|My Room in the Trees||2010||Badman Recording Co.|
|Seven Christmas Songs||2011||Independent|