I love this song. I have always sung it, and heard it sung, in black dialect. Trisha Yearwood manages to sing this beautiful little song, simply and sincerely, and without pretention, in her own language. I may try it that way -- although I just finished, last Monday, recording it in dialect.
I love it as a simple song of faith and empathy sung, as I imagined it, by a black slave. Several times I have sung it at the Christmas Eve service at our church. As an actor, I have wanted to sing it as the character imagined by the composer. When I sing Charlie Anderson's songs in Shenandoah, I sing them in a more pronounced Southern accent than my own. When I sing Tevye's songs from Fiddler I use an accent based on Topol's in the movie version. Topol is Iraeli. And I put on an Irish brogue for "Danny Boy". I have thought it might seem fake and stilted to sing SLJB without the dialect. I have to admit though, I have felt a little uncomfortable, as a white person, singing it in dialect. Some might not understand my respect for the pain and reverence of that enslaved worker and interpret it as paternalistic or even mocking.
Well, here's Trisha. What do you think?