In a last minute bid to release the most delicate and beautiful album of the year, the Innocence Mission released Now the Day Is Over, a collection of covers and renditions that the band’s couple, Don and Karen Peris, sing to their kids as lullabies. It has already been said that Karen Peris has “one of the most magical voices in music,” but it’s worth repeating. At times sounding like the hushed voice of Sally Ellyson of Hem and at others like an Icelandic pop diva, a la Björk or Emiliana Torrini, Peris whispers her way through cover after cover (and one original) that are at once uplifting and sleep-inducing (in a good way).
You don’t have to have children to enjoy this record. I feel like I should write that out of the gate as I do not have children and I love this record. Someday when I have kids however, this record will be on repeat in their bedrooms to lull the little ones to sleep as I sing horribly along rocking them in a chair, and probably asleep long before the little tykesters. The band begins with “Stay Awake” from Mary Poppins, a song which had been done on an album of the same name featuring Suzanne Vega doing the honors. Both are great covers and it’s hard to tell which one is better if any. The classic “Over the Rainbow” follows and loses all of its “I’m sick of that song, it’s in every talent show I’ve seen” stigma in the Peris’ hands.
“Moon River” is one of the highlights of the album. I thought that the original song couldn’t get much more fantastic having been written by Henry Mancini and Johnny Mercer and featured wonderfully in one of my favorite films, Breakfast at Tiffany’s. That song coming out of Audrey Hepburn’s stunning face, even though she is not a great singer, holds a place in my heart. But Innocence Mission do a number on the song that adds a little something that gives it that extra dash of heartbreak.
Two instrumental numbers, Chopin’s “Prelude in A” and Beethoven’s “Sonata No.8” prove that Karen’s voice isn’t the only star of the show. Her and her husband’s multi-instrumentation along with Mike Bitts’ stand up bass carry the album’s lullaby themes handily. “Edelweiss”, one of the more poignant songs from The Sound of Music is another standout and one in which Karen definitely sounds more like a Scandinavian singer. “It Is Well With My Soul” or as it might be more commonly be known, “Peace Like a River” shows the Innocence Mission’s Catholic roots. After all, the Peris’ met during a Catholic High School production of Godspell. The title track is a song that has been performed by the likes of everyone from Garrison Keillor to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. The great thing about this album is that due to the immensely strong performances that the group brings to each song, each one now belongs to them. They may be covers, but as “Hallelujah” is now more associated with Jeff Buckley than almost everyone but Leonard Cohen, so most of these songs should now be associated with Innocence Mission.
Only one song, that being “My Love Goes With You,” is an original written by Karen. It is one of the best songs on the album and fits in nicely with such great classic and traditional numbers. To be able to write a song that not only stands up to, but almost outshines these tracks is astounding. Kudos to the band! If all of this gushing isn’t enough to make you buy the album, and it should, a portion of the album’s proceeds will go to Catholic Relief Services on behalf of orphaned children in South Africa. If you have kids, or even if you don’t but might plan to, or perhaps if you simply enjoy soothing lullabies by enchanting voiced sirens, then you must pick up Innocence Mission’s Now the Day is Over.
Stina Nordenstam- And She Closed Her Eyes
Natalie Merchant- The House Carpenter’s Daughter