US Catholic Faith in Real Life

My Room in the Trees

By Meghan Murphy-Gill | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare

My Room in the Trees
The Innocence Mission (Badman, 2010)

On the Innocence Mission's most straightforward folk album yet, Karen Peris sings of seasons, of weather (mostly rain), of Monday mornings, of driving, and of East Coast states in simple but profound poetry. There is the sound of deep heartache behind My Room in the Trees, but it's not presented without the characteristic hope that makes the Innocence Mission one of the most refreshing and soul nourishing bands to listen to--particularly on days when you feel like wallowing in self-pity.

On "Spring," Peris, over gentle, plucking guitars, says to "Look out for spring, the life underground, the life underground, the thawing and overflow." It's a meditative tune with a final, moving verse: "We are awake or waking, awake or waking from," which calls to mind more than just the season's first shoots making their way through the cold earth, but the resurrection of Easter.

"God is love" features this line repeated several times in the chorus, almost chanted and certainly offered as a prayer to soothe creeping fears. And on "North American Field Song," Peris instructs herself repeatedly to "stay calm, stay calm, stay calm in the meantime" as she walks "across the morning" and is reminded of the presence of her divine Father.

As piano keys are plunked, Peris warbles, bird-like, and shining guitars puncture somber subject matter; you get the feeling that Peris and her bandmate and husband, Don Peris, have suffered a painful loss of someone dear. But while this is an album to sit quietly with, and the wet imagery is probably best appreciated on a gray and dreary day, it's hard not to smile listening to these songs; they make you realize just how beautiful the world can be.

In their 20 years as increasingly skilled songsmiths, the Innocence Mission has never failed to deliver a sincere, well-crafted album, but they may just have hit their sweet spot with My Room in the Trees.

This article appeared in the October 2010 issue of U.S. Catholic (Vol. 75, No. 10, page 42).