Welcome to the Welcome Wagon is a joint labor of love between Sufjan Stevens (who produced and contributed music and vocals to the album) and husband and wife team Vito and Monique Aiuto. The Aiutos, who head a young church in Brooklyn, had no intention of sharing their music outside their congregation. Fortunately, Stevens could not let the Aiutos' talent stay hidden in Brooklyn, and The Welcome Wagon was born.
Listening to Welcome to the Welcome Wagon feels like coming home. It is comfortable and familiar, yet deeply profound. The Aiutos' vocals are earnest and pure, reminiscent of what one might hear at an intimate gathering in an old country church. Stevens dresses up the songs by adding his signature blend of warm arrangements filled with banjos, ukuleles, and piano, among other things. Background singers join in the fun, creating an atmosphere where singing along, foot stomping, and hand clapping is not only permitted, but also encouraged.
What separates The Welcome Wagon (as well as Stevens himself) from other acts is that the desire to sing about distinctly Christian subject matter does not overshadow the band's artistic integrity. When the members of The Welcome Wagon sing about Jesus, it comes across as deeply personal and not as propaganda or a desire to have a radio hit. The band perfectly unites style and substance, creating something that could be easily accepted in both a worship service and a local bar.
The lyrical content in Welcome to the Welcome Wagon is rich, encompassing both the hope and the doubt that comes from following Christ and drawing on imagery straight from the Bible. While there are quite a few covers on the album (Danielson's "Sold! To the Nice Rich Man," The Velvet Underground's "Jesus," and The Smiths' "Half a Person"), The Welcome Wagon manages to create an album that is original. Comparisons to Sufjan Stevens are inevitable (after all, Stevens' fingerprints are all over the album). However, Welcome to the Welcome Wagon is not a collection of Stevens' left over tracks, but a unique and excellent album in its own right. The Auitos are a great team, and I can only hope they continue to release music for years to come. If more Christians put out music of this quality, the industry would be turned upside down.- Review date: 2/24/09, written by Laura Nunnery of Jesusfreakhideout.com
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