Appalachia Music

That Lonesome Valley

You gotta walk that lonesome valley

My favorite song at the moment is an old traditional song The Lonesome Valley. The Blind Pig gang has been jamming on the song for the last few months. Pap or Paul one remembered it, and decided we should try it. As is true for many old traditional songs, the verses are numerous and vary by whoever is performing it.

The Songs We Sang: Favorite American Folksongs has this to say about the old song:

“In this traditional African-American spiritual, the lonesome valley very well may be the valley of the shadow of death referred to in Psalm 23, Verse 4: “Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.” The valley in the Dawson version seems to be a river valley of the River Jordan which figures significantly in the Old Testament. A gospel version was titled “Jesus Walked That Lonesome Valley.” Elvis Presley recorded the gospel version, as did Andy Griffith. Pete Seeger and Arlo Guthrie sang it together. Many alternative versions of the lyrics exist, including a cowboy outlaw version called “The Reverend Mr. Black,” which was recorded by Johnny Cash.”

If you give the song a google you’ll come up with quite a few differing verses. We don’t sing the River of Jordan vs. mentioned above-I guess the ones we use are the verses Pap remembers from his youth.

Along with Presley, Seeger, and Griffith; George Jones, The Carter Family, The Monroe Brothers, and other well known artists also recorded The Lonesome Valley. Of course I’m kinda partial to our version-check it out and see if you like it as much as I do.

I love Pap’s look at the end of the song. Although the video didn’t catch what he said you can see it on his face. He said “By ned we got it that time.”

I’m fascinated by old traditional songs that stand the test of time. I absolutely love thinking about how all those different verses came about. How maybe a traveler heard the song liked the song, but when he got back home couldn’t remember exactly how it went so he adjusted the words. Or maybe he loved the tune but wanted different words. Who knows? But I love it when we do a song that is over a 100 years old and still make it sound fresh.


This post was originally published here on the Blind Pig in April of 2011.

You Might Also Like


  • Reply
    ruth cook
    March 3, 2020 at 12:01 pm

    I am sorry for your loss.
    God bless you all.

    enjoy your music and song. Keep the wonderful music and songs going. it is a blessing to ones that do love and enjoy. we need more music in our lives to be blessed with .
    I know I do. We grew up on this music.
    Thank You!

  • Reply
    July 21, 2014 at 9:02 pm

    I’ve got a lot of favorites you all do but that’s got to be in the top 5.. enjoyed it…

  • Reply
    July 20, 2014 at 11:42 pm

    Tipper, I didn’t know this song, but now I do! Thanks to Pap and Paul.
    b.Ruth, I am so sorry for your loss. You’re right, we just never know, and it’s an awful shock when you think a person is on the mend and suddenly goes down. Condolences to you and your family.

  • Reply
    July 20, 2014 at 9:56 pm

    That hymn is a favorite of mine too. I remember singing it in elementary school, guess that was long before there were laws passed that we couldn’t sing religious songs in public schools anymore. sigh
    Do you remember those days? Kinder and gentler, weren’t they.
    God bless.

  • Reply
    July 20, 2014 at 4:59 pm

    Always loved that song! I could never sing it, but those who have the right voice and can play the tune make it just wonderful to listen to. Great for a Sunday!

  • Reply
    Sue Crane
    July 20, 2014 at 2:49 pm

    Loved the first posting – love this one. Special song, special rendition.

  • Reply
    Ken Roper
    July 20, 2014 at 1:09 pm

    This is another favorite song you all
    do, and I just love it when you step up
    with 3 beats.
    And B. Ruth, I’m sorry for your loss. I
    still have that empty feeling from the
    loss of my sister-in-law awhile back.
    It’s mostly sunny here today and I may
    just pick some beans this evening…Ken

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    July 20, 2014 at 10:54 am

    Just Friday I was looking at the website too see who in the neighborhood had been arrested. The front page caught my attention. It said the Malpass Brothers were going to be in Hildebran. Now I don’t know the Malpass Brothers from Adam, but I just had to find out. I went to youtube and put in the name. What comes up is a couple of goofy looking hicks that look like they just stepped out of the fifties. I decided to have a look anyway and chose one of the videos. Here is what I saw

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    July 20, 2014 at 10:11 am

    Be ready, one never knows when they will be walking that lonesome valley by their self.
    This song touches me a lot this morning. Yesterday afternoon, we lost our dear sister-in-law following last Thursdays early morning surgery. After a day or so she was moved out of ICU into a regular room, apparently doing well, when the unthinkable turn began yesterday at daybreak. Such a shock. Yes, you have to walk that lonesome valley by yourself. So very sad but we now know she rests pain free in a wonderful heavenly home!
    Thanks Tipper,
    I played this wonderful song over again though I have heard Pap and Paul sing it the last time it was posted…today it had that very special meaning.

  • Reply
    July 20, 2014 at 9:09 am

    I turned the volume way up on that one.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    July 20, 2014 at 7:17 am

    Beautiful, just beautiful! Pap was right, they nailed it!

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    July 20, 2014 at 7:13 am

    This has always been one of my favorites, you all did a fantastic job with it!

  • Reply
    Garry Ballard
    July 20, 2014 at 4:22 am

    I reckon it would be close to heaven to sit in your kitchen listening to Pap and Paul and the young folks picking and singing! I can’t play an instrument or sing that well but I can whistle ok so I sit here at night in Australia and just whistle along with them. Hope you tell them how much joy I get out of listening to their music and singing. God Bless you and all your family Tipper!

  • Leave a Reply