From The Desk Of The Innocence Mission: William Maxwell

Next year marks the 30th anniversary of the first innocence mission album. Since then, the Lancaster, Pa., band—wife/husband duo Karen and Don Peris (both play multiple instruments and sing) and bassist Mike Bitts—has released nine more LPs. The latest is Sun On The Square (Badman), which also features Peris children Anna (viola) and Drew (violin) on a couple tracks. Karen and Don will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week.

Karen: In 1999, I wrote a fan letter to the novelist William Maxwell. He would have been in his 80s at the time—and I was so touched and thrilled to receive a reply from him, written in the same gentle and sympathetic voice I had loved in all of his books. They Came Like Swallows was my introduction to Mr. Maxwell and kept the promise of its beautiful title throughout.

After that book, I read everything of his I could find, liking the short stories just as much, especially The Patterns Of Love and Haller’s Second Home. And I was excited to find volumes of his published letters—among them, his correspondence with the great Eudora Welty. While I was reading and loving their books, I had no idea of their close friendship—or that both were also friends of two other favorite writers, Elizabeth Bowen and J. D. Salinger. But it made complete sense. So, these letters were/are endlessly interesting, and I still reopen them and am immediately drawn in to these illuminated worlds.

From The Desk Of The Innocence Mission: Kate Bush’s “The Morning Fog”

Next year marks the 30th anniversary of the first innocence mission album. Since then, the Lancaster, Pa., band—wife/husband duo Karen and Don Peris (both play multiple instruments and sing) and bassist Mike Bitts—has released nine more LPs. The latest is Sun On The Square (Badman), which also features Peris children Anna (viola) and Drew (violin) on a couple tracks. Karen and Don will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week.

Don: One of my favorite pieces of recorded music is “The Morning Fog” by Kate Bush. I love the dreamy-ness and joy that breaks forth. From Kate’s beautiful voice and strange lyrics to that John Williams classical-guitar part—to me, this song is a continual delight.

From The Desk Of The Innocence Mission: Vashti Bunyan’s “Train Song”

Next year marks the 30th anniversary of the first innocence mission album. Since then, the Lancaster, Pa., band—wife/husband duo Karen and Don Peris (both play multiple instruments and sing) and bassist Mike Bitts—has released nine more LPs. The latest is Sun On The Square (Badman), which also features Peris children Anna (viola) and Drew (violin) on a couple tracks. Karen and Don will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week.

Karen: “Train Song” by Vashti Bunyan, from 1966, is one of my favorite things to listen to on any given day. It has such a tangible atmosphere that it is like a place you can visit. And at the center of this place is the beauty of Vashti Bunyan’s voice, which is captured in this recording especially well.

From The Desk Of The Innocence Mission: Studying Classical Guitar

Next year marks the 30th anniversary of the first innocence mission album. Since then, the Lancaster, Pa., band—wife/husband duo Karen and Don Peris (both play multiple instruments and sing) and bassist Mike Bitts—has released nine more LPs. The latest is Sun On The Square (Badman), which also features Peris children Anna (viola) and Drew (violin) on a couple tracks. Karen and Don will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week.

Don: The sound of the nylon-string classical guitar is transporting, both of the moment and otherworldly. Sometimes I am asked, as a guitarist, “What is a good way to improve musically and emotionally?” And, while I am sure there are so many ways to do so, one way for me has been to study classical guitar. I find that this pursuit kinda helps me align my thinking, atune my heart and even sometimes restore my creativity. Perhaps it is the clarity that comes from the discipline of any study, but for a messy-minded musician like myself this has often been a help. I also like the demand that is placed upon the right hand, a responsibility to foster a gracefulness in the sounding of the strings. I like the connectedness to the span of centuries, a participation in a long timeline. And, even as I move from nylon string to electric guitar, I find that I can carry some of those learned skills with me. Anyway, I bought this book in college, and it remains a place of refuge.

From The Desk Of The Innocence Mission: Tom Rosenthal

Next year marks the 30th anniversary of the first innocence mission album. Since then, the Lancaster, Pa., band—wife/husband duo Karen and Don Peris (both play multiple instruments and sing) and bassist Mike Bitts—has released nine more LPs. The latest is Sun On The Square (Badman), which also features Peris children Anna (viola) and Drew (violin) on a couple tracks. Karen and Don will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week.

Karen: A few years ago, an acquaintance of ours, a high-school senior at the time, went to Germany for part of the summer with a study-abroad program. While there, she heard some music she wanted to tell us about, by a British songwriter named Tom Rosenthal. I’m thankful that she thought of us and opened the door on a whole world of amazing songs written, usually on piano, by the same man. One of my favorites is this one, “Bob In The Rain And The Lizard Of Hope,” from the album pictured above. The reasons for liking this song are many, but one thing is that my dad’s name was Bob, and I miss him every day, so it is good to hear his name, and to sing along with Tom Rosenthal, “It’s going to be all right, Bob.”

From The Desk Of The Innocence Mission: “Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet Of 1812”

Next year marks the 30th anniversary of the first innocence mission album. Since then, the Lancaster, Pa., band—wife/husband duo Karen and Don Peris (both play multiple instruments and sing) and bassist Mike Bitts—has released nine more LPs. The latest is Sun On The Square (Badman), which also features Peris children Anna (viola) and Drew (violin) on a couple tracks. Karen and Don will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week.

Don: This Broadway musical is an amazing combination of Tolstoy, brilliant songwriting, youthful emotional confusion, the destructiveness of irresponsible desire, faithful friendship and the awakening of a man who thought his life was without meaning, to the care and love of an innocent. Composer/lyricist Dave Malloy is a wonder.

From The Desk Of The Innocence Mission: The Beatles’ “Julia”

Next year marks the 30th anniversary of the first innocence mission album. Since then, the Lancaster, Pa., band—wife/husband duo Karen and Don Peris (both play multiple instruments and sing) and bassist Mike Bitts—has released nine more LPs. The latest is Sun On The Square (Badman), which also features Peris children Anna (viola) and Drew (violin) on a couple tracks. Karen and Don will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week.

Don: One night a few years ago, I was doing some late-night grocery shopping and “Julia,” John Lennon’s song from The White Album, came on the overhead. I stood in the cereal aisle until the song was finished. A few folks passed me standing there. and if they would have asked what I stopped for, I would have told them it was not to pick out Cap’n Crunch, but rather for this beautiful work of art. There has always been something about this song, even as a boy, that makes me tear up. John’s voice, his guitar part, the very sound of the track. In a world full of wonderful songs and astounding creations, this remains my favorite.

From The Desk Of The Innocence Mission: Paul Buchanan

Next year marks the 30th anniversary of the first innocence mission album. Since then, the Lancaster, Pa., band—wife/husband duo Karen and Don Peris (both play multiple instruments and sing) and bassist Mike Bitts—has released nine more LPs. The latest is Sun On The Square (Badman), which also features Peris children Anna (viola) and Drew (violin) on a couple tracks. Karen and Don will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week.

Karen: Recently, I found myself wondering aloud how Paul Buchanan is doing. Which was mildly odd since I don’t know Paul Buchanan. Not personally. But in his brilliant songs, with the Blue Nile and on his own, and his wondrous and wonderfully warm voice, he seems like someone who is a friend. His songs have been like friends to me for many, many years, while also being small, mysterious worlds to visit. (When we signed to a label—A&M Records—for our first album, the most important, most exciting fact we knew about it was that this was the company that put out the Blue Nile albums in the U.S. ) He is also known to be a kind and genuine and humble person.

So, anyway, I am thrilled to find out that there has been a great radio documentary about the Blue Nile made within the past year. (How did I not know this?) I want to share it with you in case you also had missed it. You can still hear it on Soundcloud:

And best of all: Paul Buchanan will soon have a new album! Though I know they are beloved around the world, if you don’t happen to know the Blue Nile— or Paul Buchanan’s most recent album, Mid Air—I hope you will look them up. If I could suggest a song to start with, it would be “Easter Parade” (from A Walk Across The Rooftops), which is my absolute favorite. I have a difficult time describing music, but this quote by Paul Buchanan says a lot and can give a good idea of what kind of artist and person he is:

“You hope that someday in the future some kid will be walking along the beach and find a little piece of green glass that has been worn down by the waves,” he once explained to The Sydney Morning Herald. “He’ll pick it up and put it in his pocket, take it home and love it. He won’t necessarily know why he loves it, but he’ll love it. Those are the kind of records we try to make.”

From The Desk Of The Innocence Mission: Angelo De Augustine

Next year marks the 30th anniversary of the first innocence mission album. Since then, the Lancaster, Pa., band—wife/husband duo Karen and Don Peris (both play multiple instruments and sing) and bassist Mike Bitts—has released nine more LPs. The latest is Sun On The Square (Badman), which also features Peris children Anna (viola) and Drew (violin) on a couple tracks. Karen and Don will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week.

Don: Over lunch in early 2018, my old friend Denison Witmer gave me a CD of the record Swim Inside The Moon by Angelo De Augustine, a super-inspiring artist on the Asthmatic Kitty label. The CD stayed in my car player on repeat until my parked car got hit and demolished earlier this year. One of the last items I retrieved from the dash before the car was carried off was this CD. He has a sound that makes me want to pick up my guitar and write.

From The Desk Of The Innocence Mission: Laura Carlin And Beatrice Alemagna

Next year marks the 30th anniversary of the first innocence mission album. Since then, the Lancaster, Pa., band—wife/husband duo Karen and Don Peris (both play multiple instruments and sing) and bassist Mike Bitts—has released nine more LPs. The latest is Sun On The Square (Badman), which also features Peris children Anna (viola) and Drew (violin) on a couple tracks. Karen and Don will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week.

Karen: If, like me, you are very fond of great picture-book art, maybe you will enjoy these, too. The images here are from fairly recent work by two of my favorite illustrators. Laura Carlin and Beatrice Alemagna create unique and interesting and beautiful illustrations that are rich in texture and resonate with emotional connection. I really enjoyed watching this short film of Beatrice in her studio …

… and this interview with Laura about illustrating The Promise: