Music Literature Film Index About

Dust Bowl Ballads, Woody Guthrie

RCA Victor, 1940

Track Listing: 1. The Great Dust Storm (Dust Storm Disaster) , 2. I Ain’t Got No Home in This World Anymore, 3. Talkin’ Dust Bowl Blues, 4. Vigilante Man, 5. Dust Can’t Kill Me, 6. Pretty Boy Floyd, 7. Dust Pneumonia Blues, 8. Blowin’ Down This Road, 9. Tom Joad - Part 1 , 10. Tom Joad - Part 2, 11. Dust Bowl Refugee, 12. Do Re Mi, 13. Dust Bowl Blues, 14. Dusty Old Dust, 15. Talkin’ Dust Bowl Blues (alternate take )

Note: Originally released separately as Dust Bowl Ballads, Vol. 1 and Dust Bowl Ballads, Vol 2. Combined by RCA into Dust Bowl Ballads with the added tracks "Pretty Boy Floyd" and "Dust Bowl Blues" and then rereleased by Buddha Records with a new running order and third added track, an alternate take of "Talking Dust Bowl Blues."

“Now as I look around, it’s mighty plain to see
This world is such a great and a funny place to be;
Oh, the gamblin’ man is rich an’ the workin’ man is poor
And I ain’t got no home in this world anymore”

-fromI Ain’t Got No Home in This World Anymore

Home underwater. Priced to sell, it will cost a cool fifty grand at close to walk away. For Winfield Joad, it is the latest roadblock along a dusty old trail of bad luck post-layoff, customary clichés to follow. All good things come to an end. You’ll be okay. One door closes, another door opens.

“Lots of folks back East, they say
Is leavin’ home every day
Beatin’ the hot old dusty way to the California line”

-fromDo Re Mi

A flight into San Jose leads Joad to a company on top of the world where folks from a mystical land of binary prove immediately welcoming, down to earth. But while he feels surprisingly good about the interviews, research into the South Bay housing market tempers enthusiasm. Even factoring in tech boom Monopoly play money, the numbers refuse to compute. He and his family will need to rent—that much is certain—but numerous reviews from alleged tenants past and present paint a grim picture far and wide concerning many of the management companies. Each comment is flagged with more red herrings than the previous. Joad considers what it would be like to throw away more than a third of his salary to a subpar landlord for the ability to rent a subpar apartment that in subsequent years would be slapped with a rental hike of 15-20 percent—an amount not likely matched in salary adjustments. He wonders what would be left to put food on the table.

“We got out to the West Coast broke
So dad-gum hungry I thought I’d croak
An’ I bummed up a spud or two
An’ my wife fixed up a tater stew
We poured the kids full of it
Mighty thin stew, though
You could read a magazine right through it”

-from "Talking Dust Bowl Blues"

Logic or no logic, the pull of the gold rush has known to entice many a dreamer to throw caution to the wind and head west, young man.

“I’m a-goin’ where the water taste like wine
I’m a-goin’ where the water taste like wine”

-fromBlowin’ Down This Road

What about the drought, you ask? The water in these parts may promise to taste like Napa wine but it is more than a little scarce these days.

“That old dry spell killed my crop, boys
But it can’t kill me, Lord
And it can’t kill me”

-fromDust Can’t Kill Me

When money concerns loom large, choices have a way of making themselves. Which is how Joad and his wife find themselves selling off what they can and donating the rest, all in preparation for taking the plunge.

“That old pawn shop got my furniture
But it can’t get me, Lord
And it can’t get me”

-fromDust Can’t Kill Me

They hit the road and three days later cross the magical threshold marked neatly by a sign on the side of the freeway. Welcome to California.

“’Cross the desert sands they roll
Gettin’ out of that old dust bowl
They think they’re goin’ to a sugar bowl
But here’s what they find
Now, the police at the port of entry say
You’re number fourteen thousand for today”

-fromDo Re Mi

Exactly how welcoming remained to be seen.