Preconceptions are hard to ignore so when I knew that I was reviewing an album from a Presbyterian pastor and his wife playing religious folk songs, I was doubtful. When listening to contemporary Christian music it’s hard not to think of it as derivative and therefore not competitive with its secular counterparts. This unreasonable scepticism seems to plight many modern-day artists who incorporate their faith into their music.
However this doesn’t seem to be the case with Vito and Monique Auito, the duo who are The Welcome Wagon. Their 2008 debut album Welcome to the Welcome Wagon was much admired for its quirky folk arrangements and choral harmonics. Interestingly it was produced and included vocal and instrumental contributions from Sufjan Stevens (who signed them to his Asthmatic Kitty label). Stevens is an artist who has also proven that faith can be integral in his music but only as part of many diverse themes.
So it’s only right that we put ill-fitting theories to one side and give Precious Remedies against Satan’s Devices (stick with us) a fair hearing. The good news is that it doesn’t sound too different to a Sufjan Stevens record, even though he hasn’t had any part in its making this time round. Tracks are carefully composed as an array of instrumentation including banjo, clarinet, harmonica and toy glockenspiel accompany the gentle vocals of Vito and wife Monique – The Strife is O’er being the best example. Sometimes though there is just vocal as the couple, and at times a backing choir, praise their maker with hymn/poem lyric as on I Know That My Redeemer Lives.
And that is what sticks in the mind. Precious Remedies against Satan’s Devices is the sound of two faithful people singing songs about love and the search for salvation. It won’t appeal to those who like an edge to their music but The Welcome Wheel’s integrity does have the ability to convince even the most sceptical.