A Song Grows in Brooklyn
Monique tells of a friend who, years ago, was going through a tumultuous time in his life, and needed some stability. "After church, he would come over to our house for Sunday dinner. He liked to play guitar, too, and so we would play every Sunday. It's how music entered our family life." They would play each other's songs together, which proved to be a healing force. "He was so generous. He would say, 'Will you play me that song you've been working on?' And that was our first song."
Home-grown music written by amateur musicians jamming with friends in their living room: sounds like a recipe for self-indulgent, derivative, pretentiously overthought songs. But the thing about Welcome to the Welcome Wagon is that it's actually good.
Responses across blogs and magazines have varied, but critics, Christians and nonbelievers alike, agree that it's a genuinely original album—some say in spite of its "Jesus lyrics." The Aiutos cite the Danielson Famile as an influence, along with the show tunes of Monique's youth and the re-set hymns of the Indelible Grace movement. Vito collects old hymnals and often digs for inspiration in the more obscure lyrics.
The Aiutos don't tour much, playing only a few shows nearby. As parents, they wish to preserve their family life, and they're fully committed to their work in the church family at Resurrection Presbyterian.
The communal aspect of the music's living room beginnings has carried over into their album. For instance, the song "Sold! To the Rich Man" was originally written by Dan Smith of Danielson, arranged by Vito as a quiet folk-pop song, rebuilt into a song with more instruments by Stevens, and then, at the last moment, morphed into a more gospel-style choir-driven song on the suggestion of a choir member during the recording session. "That final product has a lot of people's fingerprints on it."
Furthermore, the Aiutos cite the content of their songs as a way of perpetuating their ministry. "It is a way of being honest: our songs are about our shortcomings and our weaknesses, but . . . also about God's mercy and forgiveness." The songs are also about their own relationship: "When we sing, we sing to one another—literally, on stage, but it's a reality no matter where we are at."
And taking a cue from church ministry, their music is also for their audience. "We love them, and we want them to know about the love and lordship of Christ"—whether it's for one struggling friend in the living room, or a few hundred people tapping their feet in a club.
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Welcome to the Welcome Wagon is available at ChristianBook.com and other book retailers.
Christian Music Today reviewed the album.