The Welcome Wagon Amateur Hour Ethno-Musicology 101: “Deep Were His Wounds, and Red”
By Sufjan Stevens
Thursday, January 29th, 2009

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 12: DEEP WERE HIS WOUNDS, AND RED
words: W. Johnson
music: Vito Aiuto
“Deep Were His Wounds, and Red”

The final track on the record brings us back to the blood. Much like vampires, this is every preachers’ foremost preoccupation. The gruesome denouement of “Deep Were His Wounds, and Red” emerges as a quiet bluesy dirge, settling comfortably in the folk songs of the Appalachian mountains. However far we’ve plunged into the frolicking festivities of heaven, we’re always met with the steadfast image of the crucifixion—blood, guts, sweat, tears, dehydration, and torture—a gory still life festooned on a bucolic hill called Calvary. This song also acts as our procedural set piece. Verse 1: Vito conjures a simple song. Verse 2: Vito nudges his wife into the mix. Verse 3: Sufjan shows up with his microphones and recording device, imposing a prancing-dancing symphony of sounds and sights, ala brass and piano arrangements, swooping harmonies, glissandos, all the pageantry of a Broadway musical. Sorry friends, I did it again. Spoiled a perfectly good song! Well, that about sums up the producer’s lament. Better luck next time….

If you’ve got a taste for the more traditional, check out Leland Bernard Steren’s modular take on William Johnson’s original text here. A box of rocks, if you ask me.

deepwerehiswoundsandred

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