Down in the Valley to Pray

This song has of course been made famous as ‘Down in the River to Pray’, sung by Alison Krauss and Gillian Welch on the ‘Oh Brother, Where Art Thou’ soundtrack, but it was around long before then. Musicologists think it may originally have been an American slave song dating from at least the mid-1800s. Doc Watson recorded it as the opening track on his 1966 album ‘Home Again’, and I’ve decided to post a live version of this song from him. I don’t know the identity of the female singer who does the harmonies.

Mudcat has a wide-ranging discussion about this song and gospel music in general here. This post is a good summary of the most common theories about the origins of this song.

Readers of this blog may already have noticed my deep respect for Doc Watson (1923-2012), as an authentic American traditional singer and song-custodian, as a guitarist, and as a person (by all accounts). Doc Watson died on May 29th 2012 at the age of 89. Rest in peace and rise in glory, Doc, and thanks for all the wonderful music.


One thought on “Down in the Valley to Pray

  1. Pingback: Matty Groves | Faith, Folk and Charity

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