Welcome to the Welcome Wagon is the debut album of The Welcome Wagon, husband and wife team Vito and Monique Aiuto, and was produced by there friend Sufjan Stevens. In fact, the keen Sufjan fans out there might release that Vito is very same very for whom Vito's Ordination on Michigan was written for. Vito is the pastor of Resurrection Presbyterian Church a church he planted in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, NY, in 2005 (and I think is loosely connected somehow to Tim Keller).
One of the joys of WTTWW is that it is high quality amateur music. Although you can definitely hear the influence of Sufjan Stevens throughout the album (which isn't a bad thing), this is not two the work of two musical professionals. it is a husband and wife (and sometimes a choir) making music for the sake of making music. Indeed, the album took several years to produce and was done so across many different lounge rooms and bedrooms:
The Welcome Wagon began as husband and wife singing in the privacy of their home. Having little to no previous musical experience or training, Vito purchased a guitar with the desire to sing hymns with his family. With Monique accompanying on toy glockenspiel or harmonica, the two would amble through old hymnals, psalters and prayerbooks. Their inability to read music was no big issue; Vito simply made up new tunes to old words.One of the other joys about WTTWW is that it's different to what a large segment of 'Christian music' sounds like. They are not another bunch of Christians trying to imitate Coldplay. "[T]his is precisely what sets them apart from the standard fare of contemporary liturgical music. It doesn't feign emotion; it doesn't pander to stylistic pretensions; it doesn't pretend to be anything other than what it is."
The first half of WTTWW is particularly good. With reflections on Jesus, Psalm 127, the crucifixion, WTTWW can be both moving and uplifting at the same time. The whole album has a good mix of original songs and covers for a new band, "from Old Testament psalms, to Presbyterian Psalters of the 17th century, to iconoclastic pop innovators of the 1960s (The Velvet Underground), to charismatic Catholics of the 1970s (Lenny Smith), and into the melancholy lovelorn pop of the 1980s (The Smiths)", and a mixture of religious and religious songs. Although I feel that WTTWW lost momentum in the last six songs, maybe it will grow on me, and overall this is generally a very good album. It also comes with a fantastic album design made up of old-school Sunday School postcards and original artwork by Monique Aiuto.
Welcome to the Welcome Wagon - I'd give it 5 out of 5. And over Easter, I'll post up some of their lyrics on hebel. For the very keen, you can listen to all the songs online and read a commentary on all of them by produce Sufjan Stevens here.