Take Me to the Water

I can remember when I first heard “Down to the River to Pray.”  I’d just gotten that year’s Oxford American music issue and I was driving home from work, back when we lived way far south, and it came on–I think it was the last song on the CD–and I had to pull the car over and wait for the song to finish, because I just wasn’t sure I could drive safely and listen to it at the same time.

There’s not much to say about this song that hasn’t been said before, how Krauss comes in alone and then how the choir comes in behind her and it seems to get fuller and richer until the song ends.

The song, in retrospect, is very, very similar to Nina Simone’s “Take Me to the Water,” another hymn about baptism.  Simone’s starts with the piano, then she comes in with “Take me to the water” and is immediately backed by a smaller gospel sounding back-up group.  Both are concerned with “who shall wear the robe and crown?”.  (“None but the righteous shall be saved,” Simone tells us.)

Both are asking folks to join them.  Krauss goes through a litany of family members she’d like to come with her.  Simone is asking for someone to take her.

It’s just curious to me that they’re so similar.  And I think it provides an interesting contrast to listen to them back to back like that.  Krauss sounds like she’s getting a large crowd together, following her down to the river.  Simone sounds like she’s begging someone to help her get there.  Krauss seems hopeful, but with Simone, she sounds suspiciously like she might be singing the blues.

3 thoughts on “Take Me to the Water

  1. Another interesting fact about Krauss’ version, which we model our version after:

    The mothers are the only ones who get an added question. “Let’s go down; Don’t you wanna go down?”

    Everyone else just gets the command: “Let’s go down, come on down”

    Krauss or producer Burnett may have just added the question to break the monotony (when you sing this song live, it’s easy to forget what line you’re on). But you never know, maybe there’s added significance to the moms.

  2. Wait, Emily, which one? Krauss or Simone? Or both?! Your wedding photos are beautiful! We should all get married. Maybe for the next blogger get together…

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