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  • Writer's pictureTerry Pace

You Got To Walk That Lonesome Valley (traditional)

Updated: Apr 2, 2020

This version is by Mississippi John Hurt (RIP 1892 – 1966). This is a traditional folk gospel hymn that has been recorded by countless musicians from Elvis to the Blues version here by Mississippi John Hurt. I discovered Hurt’s music in the 1980’s after being further exposed to Blues music by my friend Doug Olson in graduate school. I started with the Chicago style electric Blues and when I found Hurt’s music I quickly also became a fan of the Delta Blues. Delta style is the original Blues that rose up from African American life working the fields in the south from African origins into slavery times on through the 20th Century. Blues is a music of and by and for the people. It is music for the soul to find comfort, joy, and resistance amidst oppression and hope in hard times. For me, Blues music such as Hurt’s is a fusion of the country and gospel I grew up with to the rock & roll of my adolescence (with jazz liberally added), but the whole is greater than the sum of the parts! In Mississippi John Hurt I find such real- life Blues accompanied by kindness, humor and faith. Even his voice resonates with these deeply warmed qualities. All this speaks to me and fits with my outlook in helping others to overcome the burdens in their lives by resisting injustice and working for change, and by seeking togetherness, laughter and the peace of God in this often- harsh world. You Got To Walk That Lonesome Valley is about how we all must face our ultimate journey and death alone, so there is the Blues of death and loss, calling us out to be honest with what this mortal life means. This is how the blues, real Blues is existential or concerned with core life and death matters. But in this existential honesty, the Blues through its emotionally captivating music also offers determination to face life and allow mortality to inform and enhance our lives, helping us to cherish and respect life all the more. Though the words may be mournful, the tone of the voice and rhythm of the music is emotional and energizing so in the Blues we can face our hardships as we live our real flesh and blood lives, as well as rise above and hope beyond its pain.

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