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
Welcome Wagon uses the same formula that made label-mate Sufjan Stevens a hit and adapts it to
their own down-home feel. The horn and string sections offer a lot of variety rather than the simple four-piece band
set. Clarinets, trumpets, tubas, banjos, cowbells, and even triangles get their fair share of playing time; reminding
me of a marching band without a drum line. The tempo also varies; sometimes you’ll hear an up-beat jam or an acoustic
praise and worship song. In a lot of ways, this is simply a Sufjan Stevens album with some vocal guests. At times,
it is almost impossible to distinguish Stevens from Vic, although Monique can easily be pegged out when she sings
alongside or alone. While Welcome Wagon will probably never have the huge following or high-produced sounds that more
mainstream bands do, they can no less be proud for being counted alongside the ever-growing indie genre as talented;
and, perhaps, that is all they wish to achieve.
- Zachary Anderson