Music Discussion: Wayfaring Stranger by Neko Case

Today’s pick for the music discussion comes from Kate. Feel free to continue the discussion on other songs as we begin new song threads.

Neko Case: Wayfaring Stranger
I am a poor wayfaring stranger
A-traveling thru this world below
But there’s no sickness, toil, or danger
In that bright land to which I go
I’m going there to see my Father
I’m going there no more to roam
I’m just a-going over Jordan
I’m just a-going over home
I am a poor wayfaring stranger
A-traveling thru this world below
But there’s no sickness, toil, or danger
In that bright land to which I go
I’m going there to see my mother
She said she’d meet me when I come
I’m just a-going over Jordan
I’m just a-going over home
I’m just a-going over home
I’m just a-going over home

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20 thoughts on “Music Discussion: Wayfaring Stranger by Neko Case

  1. Bethany says:

    Hm, I’m not sure how this song can really be viewed as secular, even with the other verses omitted. I also don’t think it can really be characterized as “gnostic” – it seems to me to embody the way Scripture repeatedly refers to us as “aliens and strangers” in this world – Heb. 11:13, 1 Peter 2:11, etc.

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  2. Claudia says:

    I love a song that can’t be pinned to one style or people. It’s a good example of how a song can be contextualized.
    I also love a song that acknowledges how hard it is to live amidst such brokenness and pain. However, I find that because of the horrible conditions that many spirituals/folk songs were written in, they can take on gnostic characteristics and become other worldly.
    My friend Brian has this on his Red Mountain Heaven CD. I love so many of the songs, but have been racked over the coals for there gnostic themes.
    I guess I am wondering when you listen to this song what do you envision she is singing about?

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  3. Megan says:

    Claudia, can you explain a bit more what you mean by being raked over the coals for the gnostic themes in the songs on the Red Mountain Heaven album? I’m not following so well (maybe because I’ve not heard that album?)?

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  4. Rose Bexar says:

    Haven’t heard this version (or anything else by Neko Case–had to look her up on Wikipedia), but I sang a different arrangement for Solo and Ensemble one year–might have been eighth grade; I don’t remember for sure. I’d post the lyrics as I learned them, but I’m drawing a blank on most of them. :S I do remember one chorus beginning “I’m going there to see my Savior.”
    Part of the attraction, I think, is the haunting melody and the depth of emotion that you can pour into it as a singer. I’m sure for NC, part of it is the fact that it’s an American classic. But somehow the “secular path” comment smacks of the kind of Scriptural illiteracy that led Cat Stevens to record “Morning Has Broken” without realizing that it’s a Christian hymn. It’s more warm-fuzzy and generic with the lyrics altered, but you can’t take the Christian allusions/implications out without changing “going over Jordan”–unless the metaphor is completely dead these days, you can’t understand it as anything other than entering into the Christian idea of Heaven.

    Like

  5. Bethany says:

    Hm, I’m not sure how this song can really be viewed as secular, even with the other verses omitted. I also don’t think it can really be characterized as “gnostic” – it seems to me to embody the way Scripture repeatedly refers to us as “aliens and strangers” in this world – Heb. 11:13, 1 Peter 2:11, etc.

    Like

  6. Claudia says:

    I love a song that can’t be pinned to one style or people. It’s a good example of how a song can be contextualized.
    I also love a song that acknowledges how hard it is to live amidst such brokenness and pain. However, I find that because of the horrible conditions that many spirituals/folk songs were written in, they can take on gnostic characteristics and become other worldly.
    My friend Brian has this on his Red Mountain Heaven CD. I love so many of the songs, but have been racked over the coals for there gnostic themes.
    I guess I am wondering when you listen to this song what do you envision she is singing about?

    Like

  7. Megan says:

    Claudia, can you explain a bit more what you mean by being raked over the coals for the gnostic themes in the songs on the Red Mountain Heaven album? I’m not following so well (maybe because I’ve not heard that album?)?

    Like

  8. Rose Bexar says:

    Haven’t heard this version (or anything else by Neko Case–had to look her up on Wikipedia), but I sang a different arrangement for Solo and Ensemble one year–might have been eighth grade; I don’t remember for sure. I’d post the lyrics as I learned them, but I’m drawing a blank on most of them. :S I do remember one chorus beginning “I’m going there to see my Savior.”
    Part of the attraction, I think, is the haunting melody and the depth of emotion that you can pour into it as a singer. I’m sure for NC, part of it is the fact that it’s an American classic. But somehow the “secular path” comment smacks of the kind of Scriptural illiteracy that led Cat Stevens to record “Morning Has Broken” without realizing that it’s a Christian hymn. It’s more warm-fuzzy and generic with the lyrics altered, but you can’t take the Christian allusions/implications out without changing “going over Jordan”–unless the metaphor is completely dead these days, you can’t understand it as anything other than entering into the Christian idea of Heaven.

    Like

  9. caron says:

    i have to say that i wonder about some musicians. i wonder if they think about traditional music…if they rake the public domain catalog (songs you don’t have to pay royalties to cover) and perform songs they find to fill their album with a quantity of tracks that seems beefy enough for their label to swallow. eleven…it’s the perfect #. few artists are really allowed the freedom to create a playlist on an album that they alone are responsible for.
    i don’t, however, think neko case is one of these artists. i think she makes great song choices & decides to cover songs that are *true* to a collective experience–one that she & millions of other belongs to–known as christianity. if you were raised in the u.s.a….mostly likely you were influenced by christians in some way…and there are some really dynamic aspects of the christian faith that can be appreciated by “secular” folks. the STORY of christianity & the people that are apart of this faith is really interesting…
    reminds me of how a band like Sixpence, None the Richer can sing a song like “There She Goes”…just sorta singing it because it’s a nice song & tells a good story, forgetting the conviction/feeling that the narrator (SINGER!!) brings to the song.

    Like

  10. caron says:

    i have to say that i wonder about some musicians. i wonder if they think about traditional music…if they rake the public domain catalog (songs you don’t have to pay royalties to cover) and perform songs they find to fill their album with a quantity of tracks that seems beefy enough for their label to swallow. eleven…it’s the perfect #. few artists are really allowed the freedom to create a playlist on an album that they alone are responsible for.
    i don’t, however, think neko case is one of these artists. i think she makes great song choices & decides to cover songs that are *true* to a collective experience–one that she & millions of other belongs to–known as christianity. if you were raised in the u.s.a….mostly likely you were influenced by christians in some way…and there are some really dynamic aspects of the christian faith that can be appreciated by “secular” folks. the STORY of christianity & the people that are apart of this faith is really interesting…
    reminds me of how a band like Sixpence, None the Richer can sing a song like “There She Goes”…just sorta singing it because it’s a nice song & tells a good story, forgetting the conviction/feeling that the narrator (SINGER!!) brings to the song.

    Like

  11. gregory paul says:

    i happened upon this blog by doing a google search for “wayfaring stranger secular lyrics.” this is an old time spiritual with one of those haunting but catchy melodies that has been on my periphery for years. finally the song came to the surface when i suggested adding it to the song list of an old time string band i play with called the varnish cooks. we came up with our own arrangment, but kept fully intact the haunting melody and over all feel. i’ve also done a solo version of this song using a violin bow on acoustic guitar: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kj1tRVi-oGs
    but… my whole point of this post is that though i play with a band of christians, i myself am not one. this doesn’t keep me from being deeply interested in spirituals and / or hymns. the mythology, history and mystery of these songs fascinates me, and provides as much meaning for me from a secular viewpoint, as it would for a believer. i want to record a version of this song for my next album, but i’d like to find some secular verses, because frankly it does make me a little uncomfortable sometimes singing these songs with such conviction while not being a christian. also… i want to show that these songs reveal universal pain of the human condition, religious or otherwise. any suggestions, thoughts?

    Like

  12. gregory paul says:

    i happened upon this blog by doing a google search for “wayfaring stranger secular lyrics.” this is an old time spiritual with one of those haunting but catchy melodies that has been on my periphery for years. finally the song came to the surface when i suggested adding it to the song list of an old time string band i play with called the varnish cooks. we came up with our own arrangment, but kept fully intact the haunting melody and over all feel. i’ve also done a solo version of this song using a violin bow on acoustic guitar: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kj1tRVi-oGs
    but… my whole point of this post is that though i play with a band of christians, i myself am not one. this doesn’t keep me from being deeply interested in spirituals and / or hymns. the mythology, history and mystery of these songs fascinates me, and provides as much meaning for me from a secular viewpoint, as it would for a believer. i want to record a version of this song for my next album, but i’d like to find some secular verses, because frankly it does make me a little uncomfortable sometimes singing these songs with such conviction while not being a christian. also… i want to show that these songs reveal universal pain of the human condition, religious or otherwise. any suggestions, thoughts?

    Like

  13. Craig says:

    Loved your violin bow version, Gregory, as well as your own thoughts above on the song. It’s obvious you are an intellectually thoughtful person and an artistically honest musician who values expression that is both heartfelt and genuine. I really appreciate that.
    Your lyric dilemma is an interesting one. While I agree wholeheartedly the melody is haunting, I wonder if the “universal pain of our human condition” you mentioned can be fully expressed without some sense of that from which we have fallen and a hope of redemption by which we might be restored? That, to me, is the real tension and power “haunting” the song.
    How do you think about this in your own spiritual journey? Have you taken a shot at writing any lyrics of your own? I’m sure I’m not the only reader Megan has interested in reading your attempts and hearing your perspectives.

    Like

  14. travis says:

    gregory paul,
    i thought your rendition was truly beautiful. you have an incredibly expressive voice.
    i’m with craig, i’d like to hear more of your story and where you’re coming from. i’d also know if there are particular things in the history and mystery of spirituals that fascinates you. i’m also curious what you mean when you say these songs (this one in particular) has as much meaning for you as they do for any believer? what do you think of when you think of “crossing jordan” and “going to see your Saviour”? don’t read me as skeptical, i can tell from the way you sing the song that it has deep meaning for you. i’d like to hear what it is. thanks for posting the link.

    Like

  15. Craig says:

    Loved your violin bow version, Gregory, as well as your own thoughts above on the song. It’s obvious you are an intellectually thoughtful person and an artistically honest musician who values expression that is both heartfelt and genuine. I really appreciate that.
    Your lyric dilemma is an interesting one. While I agree wholeheartedly the melody is haunting, I wonder if the “universal pain of our human condition” you mentioned can be fully expressed without some sense of that from which we have fallen and a hope of redemption by which we might be restored? That, to me, is the real tension and power “haunting” the song.
    How do you think about this in your own spiritual journey? Have you taken a shot at writing any lyrics of your own? I’m sure I’m not the only reader Megan has interested in reading your attempts and hearing your perspectives.

    Like

  16. travis says:

    gregory paul,
    i thought your rendition was truly beautiful. you have an incredibly expressive voice.
    i’m with craig, i’d like to hear more of your story and where you’re coming from. i’d also know if there are particular things in the history and mystery of spirituals that fascinates you. i’m also curious what you mean when you say these songs (this one in particular) has as much meaning for you as they do for any believer? what do you think of when you think of “crossing jordan” and “going to see your Saviour”? don’t read me as skeptical, i can tell from the way you sing the song that it has deep meaning for you. i’d like to hear what it is. thanks for posting the link.

    Like

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