This article was originally published on American Blues Scene.
This is the latest installment in our weekly series, The Language of the Blues, in which author and rocker Debra Devi explores the meaning of a word or phrase from a blues song. Come back every week for the latest! Devi’s award-winning book, The Language of the Blues: From Alcorub to ZuZu, includes a foreword by Dr. John and is blurbed by Bonnie Raitt and Joe Bonamassa. Get your signed copy at Bluescentric.com!
The word “dry” describes something plain and unappetizing, like toast without butter or food straight out of the can, uncooked and unseasoned. It also means to be without money, as in “I’m dry, man.” To be “dry long so” is to be worn out by poverty to the point where it feels like you’re not going to make it.
Skip James told it like it is in his haunting song “Hard Time Killin’ Floor Blues”:
Hear me tell you people, just before I go These hard times will kill you just dry long so
Robert Johnson also used it in “Come On In My Kitchen,” as he cajoled a women to take shelter in his kitchen and let him provide for her over the winter.
You better come on in my kitchen baby
It’s going to be raining outdoors
Winter time’s coming It’s going to be slow You can’t make the winter, babe that’s dry long so
“Come On In My Kitchen”- Robert Johnson
“Hard Time Killin’ Floor Blues”- Skip James (Nehemiah Curtis James)
Skip James – “Hard Time Killin’ Floor Blues”