Today, the old bluegrass song “O’Death” is probably best known for the Ralph Stanley a cappella version prominently featured in O Brother, Where Art Thou? (Stanley even sang it at the Oscars that year). But the song goes back a century or more, first recorded by Dock Boggs in 1920. That is where Mexico City rock band Peregrino first heard it, and they include a fantastic cover on their debut EP A Younger Man’s Game.
“That version, for me, is just as haunting as the Ralph Stanley version, if not more so,” singer Jairus McDonald says. “I messed around with it for a while on banjo trying to learn his version, but then I decided to make it a little bit more rock/pop-friendly in terms of structure while still maintaining the folk style. Lyrically there are quite a few verses depending on the version, but I cut it down to a simple back-and-forth with one more line from Death to sort of signify the narrator losing. I left a couple Boggs pronunciations in there as a cheeky little tip of the hat to him.”