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Ethereal or just REAL life? Down to the River to Pray; Acapella Version

The 2000 movie O Brother, Where Art Thou? I remember especially for George Clooney singing / acting into an old fashioned microphone, looking as though he was about to take off and fly through the thing, leaping at it for each vocal moment. I remember sitting there throughout the entire movie pondering whether that was actually George Clooney's own vocals, for surely he could not both look that outrageous and sing perfectly fine.


Found later out that no, that was not George Clooney singing: - Dan Tyminski was the man that provided the lead vocals for the cover of I am a Man of Constant Sorrow.


I have always been a movie soundtrack enthusiast, and the O Brother, Where Art Thou? track had a bit of all, covered with a cool bluegrass vibe, with a soundscape jolting the audience from desperate, hungry, out of luck, to hopeful, happy and calm. With the movie setting "In the American south during the 1930s, three escaped convicts search for hidden treasure while a relentless lawman pursues them", there is a joyfully stressfull energy to a lot of the songs.


One of the more ethereal moments in the video that balances the track out is when Down to the River to Pray is sung by Alison Krauss. An African-American spiritual / gospel / folk hymn, the song served to completely change the mood of the movie in some few frames. The song's mood, and the fact that the main characters actually walked in on a baptism, helped show that even though the main characters of the movie were stressed and running out of time, there was a bigger community at work out there. Tim Blake Nelson, playing the fictional character Delmar O'Donnell, professes:

Delmar O'Donnell : Well that's it, boys. I've been redeemed. The preacher's done washed away all my sins and transgressions. It's the straight and narrow from here on out, and heaven everlasting's my reward.
Ulysses Everett McGill : Delmar, what are you talking about? We've got bigger fish to fry.
Delmar O'Donnell : The preacher says all my sins is washed away, including that Piggly Wiggly I knocked over in Yazoo.
Ulysses Everett McGill : I thought you said you was innocent of those charges?
Delmar O'Donnell : Well I was lyin'. And the preacher says that that sin's been washed away too. Neither God nor man's got nothin' on me now. C'mon in boys, the water is fine.

The song Down to the River to Pray, has the following lyrics:

As I went down in the river to pray

Studying about that good old way

And who shall wear the starry crown

Good Lord, show me the way!


O sisters, let's go down,

Let's go down,

come on down

O sisters,

let's go down

Down in the river to pray


As I went down in the river to pray

Studying about that good old way

And who shall wear the robe and crown

Good Lord, show me the way!


O brothers, let's go down

Let's go down,

come on down

Come on, brothers,

let's go down

Down in the river to pray


As I went down in the river to pray

Studying about that good old way

And who shall wear the starry crown

Good Lord, show me the way!


O fathers, let's go down

Let's go down, come on down

O fathers, let's go down

Down in the river to pray


As I went down in the river to pray

Studying about that good old way

And who shall wear the robe and crown

Good Lord, show me the way!


O mothers, let's go down

Let's go down; don't you want to go down?

Come on, mothers, let's go down

Down in the river to pray

As I went down in the river to pray

Studying about that good old way

And who shall wear the starry crown

Good Lord, show me the way!


There is also a verse about sinners, but I usually skip that verse. Honestly, when you get to that part of the song, it has gone on long enough. Funnily, when singing it together with Oda and Madeleine, we have a hard time agreeing upon the following:

  1. should one sing fathers or mothers first?

  2. When to sing robe and crown vs. starry crown? I'm impressed by myself when I get it right.

  3. Are we finished, or did we sing all the verses?

These are the sort of questions I ask myself when there is a song with similar sounding content throughout. As such, I asked Paalshootsraw to film a short clip of us trying to sing this song in agreement. See the video below:


We sort of made it happen, I would say.


...Except for perhaps the moment I randomly try to modulate the song: Of course no-one follows, so I go down to the original pitch I was in anyhow and sort of meander around there.


As shown in O Brother, Where Art Thou?, it is not only possible, but probable to get stuff done even though there is no plan, the plan is not clear or does not fit the circumstances.

You will get somewhere, no matter what direction you go in. And if you don't know where, I guess you can go down to the river to pray, and study about that good old way. If you're the sort to take advice from songs, I mean... Sounds more relaxing than running around the countryside looking for treasure, which the movie was more about.

Pete: You miserable little snake! You stole from my kin! Ulysses Everett McGill: Who was fixin' to betray us. Pete: You didn't know that at the time. Ulysses Everett McGill: So I borrowed it until I did know. Pete: That don't make no sense! Ulysses Everett McGill: Pete, it's a fool that looks for logic in the chambers of the human heart.

Taking advice from the movie: Maybe not in this case?

Taking advice from the movie soundtrack? Yes, definitely.

xoxo, Vilde Isabelle


Resources:

O Brother, Where Art Thou? on IMDb: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0190590/

The Soggy Bottom Boys in O Brother, Where Art Thou? Is that George Clooney singing voice, or what?No, Dan Tyminski provided the vocals here : https://youtu.be/meCZ5hWNRFU #religiousmusic #gospel #acapella #practicemakesperfect #isamolle #filmedoniphone


©2019 by Isamolle.

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