"Birds Of My Neighborhood" by The Innocence Mission (1999)
I've had the pleasure of seeing The Innocence Mission twice and on both occasions I was on the front row. To say it was a religious experience would be to sell it short. The hair on the back of my neck stood up the whole time--in a good way. The Innocence Mission is pretty much the husband and wife team of Don and Karen Peris and bassist Mike Bitts--you can't meet nicer people. I know this because I had the chance to hang out with them for a while after one of the shows.
The fact that the Peris' are classy, unassuming people would come as no surprise to anyone familiar with their music. They make tasty alternative/folk music that is kind of a cross between Natalie Merchant and the Cocteau Twins. (In fact, Karen sang quite a bit of back-up on Merchant's masterpiece Ophelia.) Her voice is as pure as a mountain spring, to the point where it may take a newcomer a little getting used to. Some might think it a tad precious. Don's guitar playing is impeccable, though in the past I've accused him of being a little too derivative of Robin Guthrie of the Cocteau Twins.
Birds Of My Neighborhood is much more acoustic and folky sounding than any of their previous records. Sparse and pared down, it's a definite step up from their last album Yellow--but a few notches down from Umbrella (which is among my favorites of the decade). It's almost as though they've given up on superstardom and made an album that reflects their modest and spiritual nature.
The melodies are simple, yet slightly haunting and after a few spins, they'll have you singing right along. The centerpiece of the album is a cover of John Denver's "Follow Me," and the rest of the songs compliment it well. This is an album for those who enjoy mellow, ethereal, contemplative folk music. The kind made by very down-to-earth, charming folks.
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