The first time I ever heard “Down at the River to Pray” was at one of my dance recitals in elementary school.
Since then, I have been completely obsessed. I remember getting to sit in the audience after I had finished dancing and being mesmerized watching some of the more advanced girls dance to this song.
So when I saw that Alison Krauss did a version of this song, granted for a movie I’ve never seen, I knew I was going to fall in love.
Even though she does have some popular songs like “When You Say Nothing at All” and “Whiskey Lullaby” with Brad Paisley, both of which are absolutely gorgeous, I still feel like her voice is totally underrated.
Just looking at the O Brother, Where Art Thou soundtrack alone, you can see that the handful of songs she’s featured on are fantastic.
This, of course, includes the traditional Christian hymn “Down at the River to Pray.”
The song comes from the African-American Spiritual “The Good Old Way” but rose in popularity in part because of Krauss’s version on the movie soundtrack.
The repetition used in the song is typical of many hymns but makes the song catchy and, well like I said earlier, mesmerizing. I genuinely am not sure what it is about this specific song paired with Krauss’ voice, but I’m telling you that it makes me stop literally whatever I’m doing because I just have to stop and take it in.
This performance from 2019 is no different. I had to stop whatever I was doing to watch, and I wasn’t disappointed.
The performance isn’t accompanied by any instruments, just Krauss’s voice at first. For the first verse and chorus, it’s literally only Krauss’ voice in this almost haunting rendition.
The whole song has always struck with me as melancholic for some reason, and Krauss’ voice adds to that along with a softness that makes the song even more beautiful.
Then, when the other musicians begin to sing along with her, absolute chills.
If you have not heard Alison Krauss sing this hymn, you gotta check it out.