Even if it weren’t produced by Sufjan Stevens and released on his Ashmatic Kitty label, discussing this full-length debut from the Welcome Wagon without mentioning him would be pointless and nearly impossible. The Welcome Wagon, a duo comprising the Rev. Thomas Vito Aiuto and his wife Monique, could easily be confused for a Sufjan side project, one that pushes the Christian subtext of Stevens’ work to the forefront.
“Rev.” isn’t part of a stage name — Aiuto is an actual Presbyterian pastor at a church in Brooklyn, and his debut album consists mostly of his arrangements of traditional hymns. You can probably see where this is going.
“Up on a Mountain,” for all its sermonizing, can warm the heathen heart with Monique’s adorable little voice, and the band gets some indie points for covering the Velvet Underground’s “Jesus,” even if they can’t hope to match the immaculate original. Weirdly operatic choral interludes damn near redeem “American Legion,” but just because the repeated resolution “If I’d been there, I’d surely have prayed for you” prevents you from adding it to a mix tape doesn’t mean you’re going to hell. Even among the faithful, that’s a pretty lame sentiment.