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Rev. Vito and Monique Aiuto

Welcome Wagon (Asthmatic Kitty Records)

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Have you been wondering what the heck Sufjan Stevens has been doing since the release of his chart-topping Come on feel the Illinoise! In 2005?  The answer is Welcome Wagon, the newest release on Asthmatic Kitty Records. Stevens recorded, produced, and arranged the album, which is billed as “pastor and wife join voices in sacred folk songs for all ages.”  That’s right, this is a gospel/Christian (indie) rock album and surprisingly it is not as strange as you might expect with that genre classification. 

Sufjan’s influence is clearly apparent in every track with sweeping chamber-pop instrumentals, un-ironic (OK maybe a little) banjo and the perfect mix of sparse harmonies and fully orchestrated crescendos.  He even sings backup on a few songs.  But this is not Sufjan using a front band to make the overtly religious album he’s been hinting at since Seven Swans (I’ll admit, that was my conspiracy theory on first hearing of the existence of this album). Rev. Vito and Monique Aiuto, the husband and wife duo behind Welcome Wagon, have used his expertise to create their own masterpiece.

Several songs use overdubbed vocals to create a kind of gospel choir, something that would sound terribly out of place on a Sufjan record.  This album is also more upbeat and raucous than even Illinoise, with more percussion and dirtier brass sounds. 

By integrating Sufjan so fully into their recording process, Welcome Wagon have put the force of his name behind a truly unique project that unfortunately probably wouldn’t have gotten nearly as much attention without it.

Kayla Morrison is the alternative music director KUPS 90.1 FM The Sound


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