Welcome to the Welcome Wagon
Anything that Sufjan Stevens involves himself with is bound to be tuneful and interesting, non? Stevens acts as producer (and judging by the sleeve notes) as vibemaster supreme on this LP; billed as ‘a set of sacred folk songs for All Ages’, and no, I couldn’t put it better than that, even if I tried.
Essentially the work of Presbyterian pastor rev. Vito Aiuto and his wife Monique, it’s a humble, modest and very sincere set of songs, (even when the tempo goes up a notch) drawing on all sorts of traditions and blessed with some beautiful musical flourishes and very uplifting vocal arrangements.
There’s also a very sixties feel to this LP; at times I was thinking how reminiscent it was to Brazilian pop from ‘68, (especially Sold! To the Nice Rich Man) or maybe there's a nod to the Velvets and certainly there’s a feel of Steve Earl or Gram Parsons… Nowt wrong with that at all.
The choir’s sheer enthusiasm shines through, and you can’t deny there’s something infectious in hearing people singing something they believe in and want to communicate; who cares if you’re not a Presbyterian or a Christian? Take Hail to the Lord’s Anointed. Now, it might sound like something that agnostics shouldn’t touch with a barge poll, but the shimmering strings dovetail brilliantly with the ebullient (yes, I wrote ebullient) brass section to set up a brilliant musical platform for some achingly sweet vocal lines. It’s fantastic music, regardless of the message.
Certainly worth listening to, if only for the tunes.
Words: Richard Foster