by: Daniel Johnson
There's a lot of music at KUCI. Here's a selection that you may have missed from 2008 that is certainly still worth checking out...
“Welcome to the Welcome Wagon” is the debut release from The Welcome Wagon, the musical project of Presbyterian Pastor Vito Aiuto and his wife Monique Aiuto. The album, a collaboration with acclaimed folk rock artist Sufjan Stevens, highlights song composition and the musicianship of the Aiutos, at times employing an entire choir.
Although it begins with the solemn “Up on a Mountain,” the album transcends the sound of a Sunday morning at church. It’s incredible how pop-influenced the album becomes in some patches, such as the song “Sold! To the Nice Rich Man,” with intros reminiscent of mainstream music from the ’80s.
The album highlights the group’s originality best during its toned-down moments. “He Never Said a Mumblin’ Word” is the standout track of the album, though it contains only a scarce amount of Monique Aiuto’s vocals, which otherwise flow smoothly throughout the bulk of the album. The masculine voice of Vito Aiuto, with his repetition of the song’s chorus, adds a lasting effect to the track.
The weaker moments of the album appear when the group strays too far from its gospel roots and attempts to embark into pop territory, either past or present. With its handclaps and stomps, the song “But for You Who Fear My Name” comes off sounding like a poor man’s version of Queen’s “We Will Rock You.” Although the track develops with more instrumentation and the Aiutos’ full vocal range, it’s not enough to save the song.
Imitation isn’t the group’s only flaw. Though the track “You Made My Day” may sound different from most mainstream music in recent decades, it lacks range in both vocalization and instrumentation. The only positive aspect of the track is its divergence from religiously inspired lyrics. While spiritual lyrics go hand in hand with any gospel release, it can be refreshing to have a slight break from biblical themes.
The track “Jesus” embraces the group’s gospel strengths and allows the choir a chance to shine for once. Blending gentle guitar and piano, the song would have been best utilized as the album’s closer. Instead, two more tracks follow it, the overly long “I Am a Stranger” and the much shorter, though also much flatter “Deep Were His Wounds, and Red.”
As a whole, the album appropriately showcases the talents of the Aiutos: intriguing in some moments, disappointing in others.