Sunday, March 6, 2011

“Hard Time Killin’ Floor Blues”

It’s Monday morning again, & time for some blues!  I found a really interesting version of a great song, & it will get your day off to a musical start, guaranteed.

On Saturday’s Any Woman’s Blues post about Jo Ann Kelly, I included a video of her gritty & intriguing slide guitar version of Skip James’ “Hard Time Killin’ Floor Blues.”  As a result I was looking around YouTube for other interesting variations on James’ song.  In addition to the original (which you can listen to here, & the version by Chris Thomas King that was featured in O Brother Where Art Thou, there’s also an amazing version by RL Burnside, much altered & containing some harrowing personal experiences (Burnside’s version is here).

But perhaps the most unusual version I came across is an instrumental take on “Hard Time Killin’ Floor Blues” by Sonny Landreth & Cindy Cashdollar.  Landreth & Cashdollar are both players of the highest caliber—Landreth was named Americana Music Association Instrumentalist of the Year in 2005 & when not performing as a solo act, he is highly in demand, having played behind John Hiatt, Jimmy Buffett, Buckwheat Zydeco & others.  His slide playing is intricate, with a complex left hand technique that employs chords & chord fragments in conjunction with slide work.

Cindy Cashdollar is one of the best Dobro & steel guitar players on the planet, & in addition to spending time as a member of Asleep at the Wheel, she has backed a number of notable musicians, including Bob Dylan, Leon Redbone, Jorma Kaukonen, Paul Butterfield & others.  She is also a frequent guest on Prairie Home Companion.

I must say the idea of an instrumental version of “Hard Time Killin’ Floor Blues” first struck me as odd—the words are so starkly beautiful.  But Landreth & Cashdollar produce a beautiful piece of music in this duet
—wonderful interplay between the two of them, & they both bring out the song's haunting quality.  However, should you like to see the words, I’ve included them after the video—or you can just follow the link above to hear Skip James' original version!


Hard time here and everywhere you go
Times is harder than ever been before

And the people are driftin' from door to door
Can't find no heaven, I don't care where they go

Hear me tell you people, just before I go
These hard times will kill you just dry long so

Well, you hear me singin' my lonesome song
These hard times can last us so very long

If I ever get off this killin' floor
I'll never get down this low no more
No-no, no-no, I'll never get down this low no more

And you say you had money, you better be sure
'Cause these hard times will drive you from door to door

Sing this song and I ain't gonna sing no more
Sing this song and I ain't gonna sing no more
These hard times will drive you from door to door
Skip James
(that's Mr James in the pic leading off the post!)


  1. Wow! That was definitely haunting. Chris Thomas King did this song in O Brother, Where Art Thou, too; in the movie he played it by a campfire late at night, the perfect atmosphere for that one.

  2. Hi Roy: I'm so sorry! I thought I'd responded already. A bit of a senior moment. So glad you liked it! There are some excellent versions of Hard Time Killin Floor on YouTube. Another good one is by Lucinda Williams--there are a couple of versions of her doing it on YT.

  3. Just yesterday, independently of this post, I found Skip James' version of the song on youtube after listening to his "Devil Got My Woman."

    I like this version of "Hard Time Killin' Floor Blues" very much too, thanks for sharing!

  4. Hi HKatz: Skip James was one of the real greats of the "classic" Mississippi blues. Glad you liked this!


Thanks for stopping by & sharing your thoughts. Please do note, however, that this blog no longer accepts anonymous comments. All comments are moderated. Thanks for your patience.