10 best versions of "Wayfaring Stranger"

About the list: The traditional hymn "Wayfaring Stranger" has been interpreted by many artists and bands. One can only speculate in why, since it's associated with considerable vertical drop. The worst version I've come across is Eva Cassidy's "jazz" version from which I haven't fully recovered yet. Anyway, here's the list of the 10 best versions.



 Cover Album Artist








American III: Solitary Man




Johnny Cash

Johnny Cash recorded six albums, known as the ”American Recordings” with resolute producer Rick Rubin. Among the recorded songs are ”Wayfaring Stranger”. The older the fiddle the sweeter the tune. There will not be a better version than this. (3:20)





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Secret South




16 Horsepower

This version was my first, but fatal, encounter with the "gothic country" genre. I immediately understood that this is the way it should be done, but didn't see the bigger picture and the consequences. The floodgates opened up completely and never closed. (2:42)





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Chasing Locusts







16 Horsepower's version of the hymn is stripped down to the bone. But compared to this version it's overproduced and fleshy. It's just banjo and vocals. It sounds like if it has been recorded in an empty tin can. But, of course, it sounds magnificent. (1:32)





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 Let the Devil In




 Uncle Sinner

Recorded in one take. Uncle Sinner give it all he got. It’s just brute force. This version is characterized by very long instrumental parts between the verses, where there’s only a banjo playing (and some muffled foot-stomping). These are moments when time almost stands still. (6:54)





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If We Can't Trust the Doctors...





This version is both casual and playful. The song starts slow with just pedal steel and vocals. Then the whole band comes in and the tempo is cranked up a few notches. Blanche always go out in style. So also this time in their take on this traditional hymn. (2:52)





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Blackgrass' version is built up with lingering violin and ample banjo picking. The band has been labeled ”jazz grass”, “banjo rock”, ”postapunkalyptic”, ”goth-twang” and ”appalachian punk”. This version of the hymn honours all these labels. (3:34)




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 Modern Sounds In Country and Gospel Music





The Dad Horse Experience 

Dad Horse Ottn's weird take on the hymn renders a seventh place. The thick German accent and the simple but beautiful banjo playing separetes this version from other more foreseeable ones. This is also Keller Gospel in its perfection. (3:54)





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American Sinner

American Sinner contributes to the already abundant flora with an unusual accordion version of the hymn including hard backing with strong emphasis on the lyrics. (”This ain’t your Großmutter’s accordion music"). This is what they do. (4:11)




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The Blackthorns

The traditional hymn can also be played in a "dark industrial gothic country" manner. The Blackthorns only released one album with six songs. "Wayfaring Stranger" was one of the songs. To give priority is to choose. This version is hollow and quite scary. (5:08)




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"Wayfaring Stranger" is often played slow or extremely slow. It's therefore liberating with a very fast punkgrass version. This banjo-driven version isn't the most sensitive, but definitely the hardest. There's nothing "high" or "lonesome" over this band. (2:29)



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