It’s time I blogged about something positive. Enough of criticism and over-analysis – it’s not good for me. Here’s something I like.
Secondly, they’ve broken the Christian music drought in my life and directed me to something I just might listen to: the Welcome Wagon’s new album Precious Remedies against Satan’s Devices.
I’m a little slow to the Welcome (band?)Wagon. I’d heard of them but thought of them as mainly a Sufjan spin-off. But this album has its own sound and maturity to it. It reminds me a little of Fleetwood Mac, sometimes Band of Horses, Iron & Wine and yes, often of Sufjan. Vito (remember him? Vito’s ordination song?) and Monique sing together as a husband-wife team. I like that. Some of the songs are more folksy, some even a bit country. There’s a sickly sweet version of God be with you till we meet again (and I thought it was a funeral song), but it seems to work in the arc of the album structure.
That’s because the other thing I like is that the album has what they call a ‘liturgical structure’. It fits together and takes you on a journey, through a narrative, and it’s about Jesus.
Vito explains: “This album has a somewhat liturgical structure, ordered loosely like a worship service. It begins with the existential and cosmic dread of ‘I’m Not Fine,’ immediately followed by ‘My God, My God, Parts 1 & 2,’ a prayer that rails against God’s seeming absence from this world and our lives. The words are adapted from the prayer of Jesus while he hung on the cross.
“It continues with the assurance of redemption , which then extends to friendship with God and with one another.”
About those last two titles . . . “Rice & Beans (But No Beans)” is a whimsical ditty about how community helps us thrive in difficult circumstances: “Phone cut off, worn through shoes / Check may bounce, rent come due / At the end of the day I’m glad to have a friend like you.” And then there’s “High,” a 1992 classic from The Cure. Vito sings it mostly as a love song to Monique – “When I see you take the same sweet steps you used to take / I know I’ll keep on holding you” – but says “it could be any kind of love or friendship. It’s a key part of who we are and what we do in our church service. After the confession of sin, we say the assurance of pardon: ‘Because we’ve been reconciled to God through Jesus Christ, we can also be reconciled to one another. The peace of the Lord be with you. Greet those around you with the sign of Christ’s peace.’ I think of this part of the record as an affirmation of the ability to love – your husband or your wife or your friend or whatever, because you’ve been reconciled to God in Christ…”
Still, we need a “Remedy” – here, a cover of a 2007 David Crowder song of the same name (“The broken and used / Mistreated, abused . . . / He is the remedy.”) And “Would You Come & See Me in New York?” is a tribute to Vito’s late father – and to “any people you wish could be with you, even people you might never see again in this life. There’s a certain sadness to it.” Ditto “My Best Days, Parts 1 & 2,” which acknowledges life’s struggles, culling its lyrics from John Donne’s “Holy Sonnet 19” (“Those are my best days / When I shake with fear”).
Ah, but then an explosion of celebration, as the album rolls into a string of tracks bursting with hope, joy, and resurrection: “Lo, He Comes with Clouds Ascending” (adapted from several 18th century writers, including Charles Wesley), “Draw Nigh & Take the Body of the Lord” (from a late 7th century manuscript by Irish monks), and “The Strife Is O’er” (from a 17th century German Jesuit collection). And then, as any proper church service does, it ends with a benediction and a postlude, respectively: “God Be with You Until We Meet Again” and “Nature’s Night,” the latter which Vito calls “a quiet snapshot of what this music sounds like when it is being born in the Aiutos’ home.”
You are the one
Who has saved us
You are the one
Who forgave us
You are the one who has come
And is coming again
To make it alright
Oh, to make it alright
You’re the remedy
Oh, in us
You’re the remedy
There’s another review of the album here at mockingbird