Just a Closer Walk With Thee, author and date unknown. Traditional Folk Song, believed to be written circa the 1850’s. Based on modern popularity, the song has certainly burst beyond the bounds of it’s original obscurity. Recorded numerous times, popular in church music services, and currently thought to be the number one dirge played in Dixie/Jazz style funerals. Music legends like Elvis Presley and Tennessee Ernie Ford recorded it, along with more than 100 other well-known (and not-so-well-known) artists.
A versatile hymn, Just a Close Walk suits several styles. Many Dixieland bands have performed lively renditions. I’ve even run across a boogie-woogie piano rendition that impressed me a lot. Much more sophisticated than my own country gospel sound. My favorites are the upbeat tempos, but a heartfelt, soulful version is more traditional.
As with so many other songs, I learned this one from watching and listening to Uncle Friel. He never played it quite the same from one session to another, but he often gave it an upbeat bounce that made you want to clap your hands in time with the music. (My favorite kind of music!) This rendition is as close to Friel’s as I can get. As much as I always loved to hear Friel play it, it was a difficult one for me to learn. Most of the gospel music I enjoy takes, on average, between 2 hours to 3 days to get comfortable enough to record. (I know, that’s a pretty wide range…) Just A Closer Walk took more like a week and two days. No particular reason that I can put my finger on. It just worked out that way. Finally this morning it clicked, and now it’s on Youtube. :^)
Just a Closer Walk With Thee is a great song for when you’re feeling a bit down, and need a reminder that God always cares for us. Even when you can’t see it, faith carries the day. The scriptural reference is taken from II Corinthians 5:7, where it talks about walking by faith, not by sight. It’s a good reminder that God doesn’t turn his back on us, even when we have doubts and questions. Faith doesn’t require answers or solutions. It just exists.
We often walk a long and convoluted path through life, with no idea of what will happen along the way. It’s reassuring that we know the destination, and have a comforting presence sharing the journey.