The Welcome Wagon Amateur Hour Ethno-Musicology 101: “Jesus”
By Sufjan Stevens
Tuesday, January 27th, 2009

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I’m by no means an authority on the musicology of religious music, or any music for that matter. But I won’t wait around for an honorary degree from Union Theological Seminary to delve into a flighty dissection of the Welcome Wagon’s debut collection of cover songs and hymns, which, on closer inspection, begins to unravel an inspiring excursion through the landscape of the sacred and profane. I should know; I produced the album. And like many overly anxious producers, I’ve lately felt the motivation to impart my own brand of “rumors and ruminations” on some of the material I helped facilitate on this transcendental record. This sidebar post is meant as my own opinionated primer—a navigational brochure, per se—on the songs that appear on this new collection of “church music.” Happy journeys, godly listeners of the world!

Track 10: JESUS
words and music: Lou Reed
“Jesus”

A remarkable feat of vindication occurs in the Welcome Wagon’s earnest interpretation of Lou Reed’s “Jesus,” a Velvet Underground classic. Tugged free of any latent irony, this docile prayer transcends its own maudlin poetry with the deadpan gravity of its inquest. The stupefying repetition of its namesake here is augmented with brassy embellishments, hammerhead drumming, and a soulful sponge bath from the choir unleashing its jostling, peripatetic harmonies at last. Such religious theater! But what of the expressionless-post-modernism of the Velvet Underground so heedlessly sabotaged by the grand inquisition of heavenly voices? Shucks! Has irony been put to death again, for the billionth time this year?! Please no!

The Velvet Underground’s original:
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