The Welcome Wagon is Presbyterian pastor Vito Aiuto and his wife Monique and this is their second album of folksy songs for persons of faith – which is a cover note not a criticism. Following 2009’s Welcome To the Welcome Wagon, named after a 17th century Puritan treatise by Thomas Brooks (I’m told), there’s a lot of God and faith in this carefully crafted collection of thirteen songs. It’s something of a blessed relief to a car journey through London with the auto-tuned racket that is Nikki Minaj.
I’m Not Fine is a fine bit of accoustic folk gospel rock and there’s nothing wrong with that. My God, My God (parts 1 and 2) lasts seven and a half minutes, in distinct parts; a light soprano, child-like vocal with brass band, gives way to white gospel choral, and male vocal prayer. After that it all goes a bit ‘trendy vicar’, a bit of an earnest work of faith, illuminated by good production and superb vocal harmonies.
Rice and Beans But No Beans (“and rice is running pretty thin.”) is very happy-clappy Nashville, with plenty of steel guitar. With a nod and a wink to fifties and sixties country arrangements, it’s got a sense of humour but I began to suspect I’m a 100% too British and a heathen for this.
High, a delicate little ballad, I didn’t realise until afterward is a cover – The Cure as you’ve nver heard them. Remedy is a tinkly bit of Kindergarten folk. Would You Come and See Me in New York is the slowed down letter by a Country Mouse inviting guests to visit. It has a little too much steel guitar for me.
My Best Days Parts 1 and 2 is a slow, pleasant sound, lyrically somehow old-time, until part two kicks into a Tom Petty-lite mid-tempo track that doesn’t go anywhere.
Lo He Comes with Clouds Descending is lyrically even more Biblical than the title suggests, all judgement days and hallelujah’s, fortunately levened by Aiuto’s light touch (Jesus “nailed to the tree”) and the homely banjo in the mix.
Draw Nigh is another intimate little song with it’s call-and-answer verses and clarinet. The Strife is O’er, features more choral hallelujahs. This is how The Fun or Noah and the Whale would sound at Sunday School, a thin slice of folk-rock with drums and a marimba.
God Be With You Till We Meet Again is more of the Tom Petty-lite sound, another upbeat prayer that should be the signing-off track, except Nature’s Good Night is the little lullaby to finish.
Based on a recommendation, I almost didn’t listen to this album when I saw the song titles. I needn’t have worried, there’s nothing bombastic or preachy in this. It’s actually quite relaxing, like sitting on a clifftop watching a warm sunset over a calm ocean, the antidote to a rush-rush secular existence. SC
PS. Top prize for the name of the record label, Asthmatic Kitty!