May’s Song Review: “I’ll Fly Away” by Alison Krauss and Gillian Welch

May’s synopsis: I love me an old-fashioned, gospel choir spiritual. When Alison Krauss and Gillian Welch do it, my, oh my.

May’s rating scale:

MAY!

May?

meh…

meh?

MESS.

 

Gillian Welch is a folk singer with more than just a tinge of country. Alison Krauss is known for her bluegrass roots. Their version of “I’ll Fly Away” is on the O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack. It sounds like Alison takes the lead and Gillian follows with tight harmony. I’ve listened to this song hundreds of times, and I never get tired of it. The tune is catchy; it has a great hook.

The instrumentation in this version is delightful and refreshing, especially during the interludes between verses and refrains. It’s straight-up bluegrass: no drums, just strums. Nice steady tempo. I imagine the guitar, mandolin and banjo were having a blast accompanying these ladies.

What makes this song for me, as with all Americana, is its simplicity. It’s almost impossible to separate the words from the music, and I love the words. There are probably many different versions of the song, and I put in brackets what isn’t in the original (but most likely added for the movie), but even those words are powerful. (Thank you, Jenny for confirming the lyrics for me.)

 Listen to “I’ll Fly Away”

Some glad morning when this life is o’er,
I’ll fly away;
To a home on God’s celestial shore,
I’ll fly away.

Chorus
I’ll fly away, Oh Glory
I’ll fly away; (in the morning)
When I die, Hallelujah, by and by,
I’ll fly away (I’ll fly away).

When the shadows of this life have gone,
I’ll fly away;
Like a bird from from these prison bars has flown,
I’ll fly away.

Chorus
I’ll fly away, Oh Glory
I’ll fly away; (in the morning)
When I die, Hallelujah, by and by,
I’ll fly away (I’ll fly away).

[Oh, how glad and happy when we meet,
I’ll fly away.
No more cold, iron shackles on my feet,
I’ll fly away.]

Chorus
I’ll fly away, Oh Glory
I’ll fly away; (in the morning)
When I die, Hallelujah, by and by,
I’ll fly away (I’ll fly away).

Just a few more weary days and then,
I’ll fly away;
To a land where joy shall never end,
I’ll fly away (I’ll fly away)

Chorus
I’ll fly away, Oh Glory
I’ll fly away; (in the morning)
When I die, Hallelujah, by and by,
I’ll fly away (I’ll fly away).

There’s a lot of hope in this song. Though it doesn’t outright say we can’t find happiness amidst the tribulation in this life, how else would we know about that “home on God’s celestial shore” if we didn’t have glimpses of it right now?

Plus, no other song can get me to stomp my feet and bob my head while encouraging me to endure to the end.

A little discussion.

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