The song “Wayfaring Stranger” is a well-known American folk and gospel song that is believed to have originated in the early 19th century about a plaintive soul on the journey through life. It has no known author, no known creator. Many variations of this song have exist, some being popularized by singers linking times of hardship and notable experiences into their version. However, at the end of the day, the lyrics and melody exist in time and space, without a home – much like the wayfaring stranger in the song.
It’s precisely this existence that drew duo CUTTS to the song in the first place. Writer and producer, Peter Bonaventure, is not sure exactly where he first heard the song, but it stuck with him for months. He says that he “kept hearing the vocals in Lilly’s voice and imagining this whole other arrangement behind the melody.” When he and Lilly Cutts began to work on the song, they decided to take an entirely different approach to this song which belongs to the whole world. Lilly, the writer and singer, explains “I think the idea of someone wandering aimlessly in search of some far away salvation is a really powerful and very human feeling. The person in this song is lonely you know? But they really believe they’re going to get home; one day. I get that. I think most people get that feeling.”
The sentiments of loneliness, unfamiliarity, and wandering are reflections of how many people have felt this year and will feel even more as we are settling into winter.
The lyrics and melody remain the same, but CUTTS elevates this traditional folk song into a more intricate work-of-art through their use of layered and harmonized vocals and converging instrumental elements. Lilly starts off with a rich and profound voice, matched with an undercurrent of harmonious hums. As she enters more of the song, ethereal vocalizations complement the hums before a stimulated percussion and synth rhythm kick in. Luminous elements bounce in as the song continues to build, brightening the instrumental production even further. Lily maintains her meditative vocals throughout the song, allowing her voice to ebb and flow between the chorus and verses. In the last few seconds, the instrumental drops off and Lilly finishes the song on a subtle vibrato, reflecting the pensive nature of the song.