Spent part of yesterday afternoon listening to a number of cover versions of one of my favourite American folk songs, ‘Shenandoah.’ For those interested in the history of the song, there is more information about this here:
Here, my intention is to rank these versionsin terms of which is my favourite. One of the great strengths of the song is the fact that it can work in a variety of interpretations – so another person’s judgement of which is best will probably not be the same as mine.
Will start with what is currently my favourite version of the sing – first, for Paul Clayton’s obvious love and respect for it, but also for the fact that his version tells a story which makes sense of the yrics of the song (as we will see, Bob Dylan uses part of Clayton’s version in his markedly inferior recording of the song). Clayton also brings an unusual melancholy feel to the song, which I find appealing :
Next in my estimation is Paul Robeson’s superbly dignified version, which can be heard here. Should also praise the reat and under-rated piano playing of Lawrence Brown here:
Next up is the Van Morrison version, which I find an on occasionally irritatingly mannered one – but which, nonetheless, is a fine version in its own right:
Last and, at the moment, my least favourite version is by Bob Dylan. One of the glories of ‘Shenandoah’ is that glorious stately melody – which Dylan changes for no good reason that I can see. His singing is also not at its best here – although the backing singers do some great work: