Welcome to the Welcome Wagon
The Welcome Wagon is a new entrant into the Christian alt-folk sweepstakes, but don’t be surprised if there’s something familiar about its sound. Acclaimed singer/songwriter Sufjan Stevens produced and directed this New Jersey duo’s recording debut, resulting in an album noticeably similar to his own endearingly eccentric releases. WW’s Vito and Monique Aiuto’s songs have the feel of 19th-century hymns, and dressed up in Stevens’ arrangements they take on unexpectedly vibrant colors. Lively choirs and bright horns add punch to “I Am a Stranger,” “Hail to the Lord’s Anointed,” and “Unless the Lord the House Shall Build.” “Sold! To the Nice Rich Man” (an odd country/pop confection) and “Half a Person” (a Smiths cover refashioned as a poppy hunk of ‘60s-ish bubblegum) are especially engaging. A gothic sort of gloom creeps into tracks like “He Never Said a Mumblin’ Word” and “Deep Were His Wounds, and Red.” Remarkably, the Velvet Underground’s “Jesus” is purged of its irony and transformed into a gorgeous gospel piece. A debut success thanks both to Stevens' and the band's own sensibility.