Although each Christmas since I turned 18 has wrought less and less presents, I was fortunate enough to receive “Welcome to the Welcome Wagon” by the Welcome Wagon as a gift this year. I will not review this album in depth as both Paste Magazine and Sufjan Stevens himself have written extensively on the Pastor and wife folk band based out of Williamsburg, but this beautiful album has inspired me to write a few words.
The album picks up where Sufjan’s “Seven Swans” left off, which is not surprising considering the producer appears on almost every track. This first track is also my personal favorite, an Vito Aiuto original called “Up On a Mountain” (musicians check out the lead sheet here). Monique’s Aiuto’s lovely voice carries a sincerity that seems to authenticate the theological message of the song. By the time they reach the third verse it is impossible not to be moved:
“Up in the heaven’s, our Lord prays for you. He sent His Spirit to carry us through. So it’s true… that you are not alone. You are not alone.”
For a generation who is not sure if genuine interaction is possible, this is a radical proposition.
The gentle harmonies of “American Legion” communicate a similar message. Speaking to a friend (or possibly a former lover), Vito declares,
“On the steps of the American Legion Hall you wait there alone. Nobody to call. No ones there again, spring, summer, winter, and fall- terrible day… If I’d been there I’d surely have prayed for you, I want you know.”
What would be cliche in contemporary Christian music in this indie/folk context is bone-chilling. The singer speaks with earnestness, but it is grounded in a realism. The meaning and power behind these words are clearly in mind.
The Welcome Wagon is a beacon of hope in a music scene characterized by despair. A city on a hill for independent music.