Appalachia Music

Walking 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-and 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 and loved it-but once he got back home he couldn’t remember exactly how it went so he adjusted the words-or maybe he loved the tune but wanted different words. Who knows?

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 2011.


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  • Reply
    Kerry in GA
    March 11, 2013 at 9:03 am

    Lovely, as always.:)

  • Reply
    Peggy Lambert
    March 10, 2013 at 11:52 pm

    Tipper, very beautiful song. I’m like Bill B., the feeling and understanding of Psalm XXIII is aboute David and his happiness, both in temprol and spirtual things. The Lord was his shepherd and the Lord would take care of him the way he took care of the sheep. David said he restoreth my soul: He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
    Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and staff they comfort me.
    (Death is but a shadow because our Lord took away the substance.This is how I understand this verse.)
    I forgot about the time change.
    Peggy L.

  • Reply
    March 10, 2013 at 10:29 pm

    That’s another beautiful hymn, there are so many we’re blessed with. Praise God!!!
    God bless.

  • Reply
    Phyllis S
    March 10, 2013 at 8:10 pm

    Really enjoyed the music again today…..thanks so much!

  • Reply
    March 10, 2013 at 7:54 pm

    This a great version! Although I haven’t heard the song in many years, the tune is what grabbed me. This was wonderful listening.

  • Reply
    Susie Swanson
    March 10, 2013 at 7:43 pm

    I’m always fascinated by their talent .. Yep, by ned they did it and I don’t think there’s a song anywhere they can’t do..Love the look on his face.

  • Reply
    March 10, 2013 at 4:30 pm

    Great song as usual! Pap’s look at the end says it all don’t it? Looks like he was saying, “Well now, how’d that grab ya ?”

  • Reply
    March 10, 2013 at 2:01 pm

    I’m not getting Blind Pig on email sometimes–didn’t get it today.
    Love the song!!

  • Reply
    Sue Crane
    March 10, 2013 at 12:14 pm

    some songs just need to be reposted! Thanks.

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    March 10, 2013 at 12:13 pm

    Tipper–Mighty fine indeed, and is there any area Paul’s Renaissance-like musical talents doesn’t cover?
    Cheryl, when it comes to “By Ned” I think it’s just an old mountain expression sort of the equivalent of “By Golly.” I’ve heard it from time to time over the years, but only in the mountains.
    Jim Casada

  • Reply
    Bill Burnett
    March 10, 2013 at 11:54 am

    I love this song also and have always thought it referenced the Valley of Death where everyone will have to walk. However I feel that it isn’t exactly accurate if you are saved by the blood of Jesus Christ, he will walk it with you if the song does actually reference the Valley of Death. Great job by Paul & Pap and as usual the harmony was great. One suggestion though, could you get a mic for the vocals as we “Old Deaf Folks” do have trouble hearing all the vocals over the instrumentation.

  • Reply
    Eva Nell Mull Wike, Ph.D.
    March 10, 2013 at 10:50 am

    Tipper: Those fellows of yours done good — as allers! Indeed that was a favorite song in our church services — back when everyone in the congregation got to sing.
    Eva Nell

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    March 10, 2013 at 10:46 am

    I call Pap’s expression a “so how do you like them apples?” look!

  • Reply
    March 10, 2013 at 10:15 am

    Miss Cindy-Its Chitter. One of my favorite photos : )
    Blind Pig The Acorn
    Celebrating and Preserving the
    Culture of Appalachia

  • Reply
    March 10, 2013 at 10:15 am

    Sheryl-LOL! Maybe its Ned from the primer reading book : )
    Blind Pig The Acorn
    Celebrating and Preserving the
    Culture of Appalachia

  • Reply
    B. ruth
    March 10, 2013 at 9:51 am

    What a beautiful day for the time change…hope it lasts all day with no clouds.
    I love Pap and Pauls rendition of
    The Lonesome Valley. Yep, everyone will have to travel it by theirself. I would hope to travel it with wonderful music in the background, just a little upbeat like the Blind Pig and boys and girls sing it…
    Thanks Tipper, hope you are enjoying the first time change into this years Spring.

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    March 10, 2013 at 9:42 am

    Loved it. Who is Ned anyway???

  • Reply
    March 10, 2013 at 9:32 am

    What a wonderful family you have – a family that shares traditions not only of music, culture, community, and family but also of faith and religion.
    If possible, could you share the lyrics sung by Pap and the Deer Hunter? I am having difficulty understanding them all. With your permission, I would like to share them with our little church band.
    And who’s to say that we won’t put our own twist on the words. We often do to fit lyrics to the season or the circumstances of the community at the time. It’s like having a conversation with history, past and evolving.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    March 10, 2013 at 9:18 am

    Nice song and you guys did a good job. I love that look on Pap’s face at the end.
    I remember that picture of one of the girls walking down the road. Id that Chitter or Chatter?

  • Reply
    Jane Bolden
    March 10, 2013 at 8:27 am

    I believe that’s my favorite so far. Very pretty! As soon as I heard you mention valley, I thought of my grandmother’s favorite hymn THERE WILL BE PEACE IN THE VALLEY.

  • Reply
    Ethelene Dyer Jones
    March 10, 2013 at 8:23 am

    I agree with what you said Pap said, “They got it this time!” Wonderful. I loved the picking and I loved the harmony! And the song, too, is one of my favorite songs. We always thought of it as “walking through the valley of the shadow of death” as in Psalm 23. But that’s just how we considered it at Choestoe. I can still remember Rev. Jim Hood playing it on the pump organ and singing it at Choestoe Baptist Church, before we “updated” to a piano–when I was just a slip of a child. Wonderful memories and amazing history with the song. I plan to look it up online, as you suggested to get more of the history of the song. But now…to church. All of you have a wonderful Sunday. For any who are interested, access me, Ethelene Jones, on Facebook for a devotional thought for today and each day, so far, in 2013!. Today I write on the subject, “Draw Near to God.”

  • Reply
    Tim Mc
    March 10, 2013 at 7:45 am

    Wonderful job,, and after a 100 yrs or so the message behind most of those old songs don’t change. It may be altered but the truth behind them will always be the truth. As long as time stands the message will still be here for whom ever will listen and learn from them.. I heard someone say once “If you don’t believe the Truth, there is only one thing left to believe”.

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