Oh Death

January 31, 2007 3:36 AM

Here's my version of this most haunting of American folk songs. It's very stripped-down: just voice, drone, a bass drum and a shekere. In the time-honored folk tradition, I've made a few minor lyrics changes here and there, and the melody I'm using is different from the Dock Boggs or Stanley Brothers versions of the tune. Anyway, it's one of my very favorite traditional songs. Hope you enjoy.

posted by flapjax at midnite (18 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

Oh Death

what is this that I can't see
with icy hands taking hold of me
i am death and none can tell
i open the door to heaven and hell

oh death, oh death
please spare me over till another year

i'll fix your feet so you can't walk
i'll lock your jaw so you can't talk
close your eyes so you can't see
this very hour come go with me

oh death, oh death...

death oh death i'm young of age
please don't take me at this stage
i take the young i take the old
i'll take your body and leave it cold

oh death, oh death...

my wealth is all at your command
if you'd but move your icy hand
i don't want silver don't want gold
i don't want nothing but your soul

oh death, oh death...

oh mother come now to my bed
rest your palm upon my head
my hands are numb my feet are cold
death's coming for to claim my soul

oh death, oh death...


Traditional, arranged by Samm Bennett. This version copyright 2007 Samm Bennett/Polarity Records

posted by flapjax at midnite at 3:40 AM on January 31, 2007

I just love your voice. And this arrangement. And every song you've posted here. More please!
posted by somanyamys at 10:51 AM on January 31, 2007

Flap, this is FANtastic. It's so hard to bring new interpretation to a traditional song, and you succeeded admirably here. One of my favorites, as well.
posted by Miko at 11:09 AM on January 31, 2007

niiice. you've utterly changed the sound yet kept the tone--difficult!
posted by hippugeek at 11:45 AM on January 31, 2007

Wow. The simplicity of the arrangement is great. I love the "rattleing can" at the end. It gave me a shiver after having heard your vocal.
posted by snsranch at 2:58 PM on January 31, 2007

Thanks folks, your comments are most gratifying! I am very happy at the moment. (Death, however, is smiling at me from beyond the grave, and whispering "All such happiness is fleeting, you poor, doomed mortal!")
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:33 PM on February 1, 2007

Great stuff. Your voice control is excellent and the arrangement is nice and open. Impressive!
posted by edlundart at 7:35 PM on February 1, 2007

Wow. Very good. *respectful clap*

However, I'm not a fan of the cowbell at the end. I'd have much preferred something that complimented the drone, and contributed to the ethereal feel... pan flute, oboe, chanter, or even didgeridoo.

But, quibbles. Great work flapjax.
posted by Ynoxas at 10:04 PM on February 1, 2007

So let my get this right, ynoxas -- you're saying, needs less cowbell?
posted by Miko at 6:36 AM on February 2, 2007 [1 favorite]

Miko: If I could reach through this series of tubes and smack you, I would.

Then I'd give you a high five and buy you a beer, as that is actually, truly, funny.
posted by Ynoxas at 8:03 AM on February 2, 2007

So let my get this right, ynoxas -- you're saying, needs less cowbell?

Hee hee! That's funny, Miko! Less cowbell!

And hey Ynoxas, nice to see you here at MeFi Music! Thanks for your comment, it's great to hear about, you know, what people think would make it better, or what they'd prefer. Kudos to you for speaking your mind! The bell at the end, by the way, is one I bought from a bell maker in Benin City,Nigeria, in the year of 1980. On this recording, it's being played by rattling it along a radiator-style heater.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 8:10 AM on February 2, 2007

Absolutely lovely. You have all sorts of little noise-making thingies, don't you? I left a bunch of little drums and percussion when I moved here and boy, do I miss them.

Anyways, great song and great version man, keep us supplied, this is very good stuff.
posted by micayetoca at 10:47 AM on February 2, 2007

flapjax: I figured it wasn't a dime store cowbell, but that's really neat hearing the origin of it.

Also, I meant to say earlier that performances like this are very hard to do properly without sounding corny/unintentionally funny. You did do a great job capturing the proper tone.

After 2 more listens I'm still not digging the bell, but as I said, that's such a minor quibble as to be nonexistent. This really is excellent work.
posted by Ynoxas at 9:35 PM on February 2, 2007

The atmospheric background and some of your vocal bits remind me a lot of VAST.

That song was my favorite part of O Brother, and I love what you did with it. Very nice job.
posted by Saellys at 10:27 PM on February 2, 2007

You seem to have the Midas touch. . . except with you everthing takes on a delicious flapjax flavor. Mmm, tasty musical pancakes. Thanx flpjx!
posted by isopraxis at 10:43 AM on February 3, 2007

I agree, isopraxis- MuFi is a bit of work to weed through some not-always-successful experimental stuff, but occasionally you find some real gems!

Hey, f-a-m/Samm: I've been a huge fan of your stuff since I found it here, only a couple of weeks ago, with Until You Kiss Me. You've got a great, expressive voice, and do some really coherent and evocative stuff using just simple sounds and percussive noises, layered nicely. Always looking forward to a new f-a-m post!
posted by hincandenza at 5:28 PM on February 3, 2007

posted by urbanwhaleshark at 5:05 PM on February 4, 2007

I put this to some video imagery on YouTube.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 8:12 PM on April 29, 2009

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