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The Welcome Wagon Amateur Hour Ethno-Musicology 101: “Sold! To the Nice Rich Man!”

Friday, January 16th, 2009
Danielson, from Sounds Familyre

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!

words and music by Daniel Smith, arr. By Vito Aiuto
Welcome Wagon version: “Sold! To the Nice Rich Man!” Welcome Wagon Version
Danielson version: “Sold! To the Nice Rich Man!” Danielson Version

War and revenge are no less likely in the album’s first showpiece, in which the Welcome Wagon indulge in their fondness for the avant family rock of Danielson, covering the classic “Sold! To the Nice Rich Man.” Originally conceived as a stomping protest song in 6/8, outfitted with Bother Daniel’s belligerent strums of the acoustic guitar, the song waltzes into an alliterative wordplay equating our “wandering, wondering, and wonderful” world as something picked up at auction by a lucrative God, who outbids the devil. What odd theological ornaments decorate this musical tree: axes and guns aimed at the Heart of Darkness, thunderclaps and waterfalls instigating the divine purchase. The Welcome Wagon evades the tree-stomping theatrics of Danielson, forgoing the waltzing punches of passion for a groovy, bluesy party vibe decorated with snappy brass jabs and soulful monosyllables from the choir, anointed with a B.B. King blues guitar jam. What’s lost in this 4/4 translation, perhaps, is a bit of the dark suspension of the Danielson original, with its epic-apocalyptic posture, ala Bob Dylan, circa 1964. But maybe that’s something only Danielson could heartfully conjure in 6/8.