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john davies
notes from a small vicar
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK

    Sunday, February 22, 2009
    From the heart and aimed straight back there
    rich man came into our town and wandered around, wandered around
    rich man came to change our minds and change our plans,
    take our things, take our nights, tonights we fight.

    rich man bought our wandering world, our wonderful world, our wondering world

    get your guns let's shoot him down, let's ax his plans,
    but we missed the mark, there goes the ark, here comes the dark.
    rich man spoke, thunder clap, like a waterfall as those waters fall on those know-it-alls and their mighty causes.

    rich man bought our wandering world, our wonderful world, our wondering world

    rich man came to pay the price, he paid it all,
    he paid the now, he paid the was, he paid it in full,
    he paid it for fools who wandered and drooled and full of lice
    he's twice as nice

    rich man bought our wandering world, our wonderful world, our wondering world
    I am in the process of being slowly rehumanised, rescued, saved, through the music of The Rev Vito Aiuto and his wife Monique, aka The Welcome Wagon. The couple, day-to-day, are at the heart of things at Resurrection Presbyterian Church, Brooklyn. Sufjan Stevens admires them for being 'unabashedly Midwestern, ordinary and uncool, the whitest of white people', and warmly describes their songs as being 'really just a pastor and his wife tentatively singing in the quiet privacy of their own home'.

    His humble understatements conceal some beautiful truths. This collection - seven years in gestation, and the careful work of friends and family - was produced by Sufjan and is suffused with all his lovely stylistic shades and tones. Gentle; gripping; from the heart and aimed straight back there. The Danielson cover quoted above (Sold! To the Nice Rich Man: mp3 here) shows the astuteness of their selections; Sufjan's thoughtful blog notes how Vito and Monique replace Danielson's 'stomping protest song in 6/8' with 'a groovy, bluesy party vibe': but the 'odd theological ornaments' still 'decorate this musical tree: axes and guns aimed at the Heart of Darkness, thunderclaps and waterfalls instigating the divine purchase'. It's lovely. It's complicated. It sounds naïve and truthful.

    Elsewhere in this collection, "Jesus, help me find my proper place," they sing. The words of Lou Reed. They embrace Morrissey, lost in London but at home in the YWCA ('Half A Person'). And they successfully segue lines from Jesus Christ Superstar into a southern sacred song from Jesse Mercer's 1810 collection of Baptist hymnody: "I am a stranger here below and what I am is hard to know; my heart is cold and dark within, I fear that I'm not born again... Everything's allright, yes, everything's allright." This will do me for Lent.

    Click here to listen to Welcome Wagon's version of Sold! To the Nice Rich Man