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Thursday, October 28, 2010

224. "O Death" by Ralph Stanley

Requested by Ken Ostrander.

Ken didn't actually specify which version of this song he was thinking of, so I had to decide for myself. I went with the Ralph Stanley version from a very popular film soundtrack of recent years, because, although it's probably far and away the best known rendition of the song to modern audiences, it actually relates better to my rendition than most, being a capella. However, most of my phrasing and specific lyrics come from an only slightly older and even more modern take on the song, the one that appears on Camper Van Beethoven's Our Beloved Revolutionary Sweetheart LP. That was one of my favorite records at a very early time in my listening career, a point when I had perhaps 20 or 30 albums to my name, and it was one of my very favorites, so the CVB version remains the one I've heard the most in spite of my years of subsequent roots music immersion.

I didn't intend it, but the unique approach I took to this song results in a surprisingly palpable Beefheart feel. The instrument that crops up a time or two and takes a sort of solo is not, as it seems to be, some kind of analogue synth or amplified xylophone... it's my mandolin, rendered that way by the ultracompressive vagaries of the method of its transmission. If I liked to believe I was cooler than I really do (or am), I would make some kind of connection between this and the way McGuinn achieved that crazy sitar sound on "Why?" by playing his 12-string through a walkie talkie speaker, but I don't so I won't.

Personnel: Rex


  1. Love that CVB album...

  2. o.b.r.s. was my first and is still my favorite of their albums, and so, the camper van version is the one i always think of; but this one is great too! i love the telephone call from the netherworld approach, like a grey adder at the end of the hall or a telephone free landslide victory. i was just listening to _doc at the radar station_ yesterday. coincidence? i think not.