It just ain’t easy (sing it, Brother Gregg Allman): learning to play the guitar ain’t no easy pickins
When the Allman Brothers box set, Dreams, came out … in 1989 … that was early, early days for the box set. At that point in the record label, money grubbing, dry-hump the catalog period of the beginning of the end of the High Times, the idea was to put out a career retrospective of their cash-cow, legacy artist from year one to year now. Legacy artist … what a rank term: less a compliment for artist and more of an indictment of the fans who will buy anything the artist (label) puts out. Oh, the poor super-fan … a blessing and a curse to be one, eh?
The box sets of that time were long and winding rides through a career filled with wide open roads (the early years), six lane highways (when the band hit their stride/peak), ruts (usually when the drugs took over), breakdown lanes (when they played it safe, but still kept going) and backroads (when they went back to their roots to recapture the magic of yesteryear).
You don’t need a cartographer to know which way the road turns.
Hey, 1989 .. it was early days for box set, yes … but, we have to give the Brothers credit for trotting out their hits and skeletons as early in the game as they did. Eighty-nine … I bought that box set (through my Columbia House membership … remember THAT!?). I was a junior in high-school and on my way to being a ’60′s wannabe. I loved the fucking Allmans. Hot Damn … they could stoke the coals at a moments notice. That entire four-CD set was both fuel and fathom … “I Love this and what was this!?”
My first Allmans gig was in 1991 in Nashua, New Hampshire. The Allmans had buried hatchets (again) and reformed with new members (again) and went out on the road for long stretches to play long jams (again). I was with friends that understood what an Allmans gig was all about: pulsing rhythms, dual(ing) guitars, stamina, boogies, shuffles and extended, balls-out jamming.
I distinctly remember during ‘Liz Reed soloing that the two guitars had an “Egyptian-Weave” feel to them. That is what came into my mind … that was the phrase my brain conjured up; I always think that now. I still get the chicken-skin thinking about that turning point in my impressionable music fandom career.
I loved that gig. I love that band. I have seen the Allmans 27 times … the last time was in 2003. I moved to Sydney, Australia in 2005; I haven’t lived in the US since. The Allmans don’t (have never) travelled to Europe as a group. I now live in London. As much as Brits and Europeans would flock to a London Allman’s gig … it ain’t happening.
Just the same, the individual members do make the trip over here. This past summer, in the span of 14 days, I saw the Tedeschi Trucks Band (UNREAL), Warren Haynes (always sure-fire) and Gregg Allman (best I have seen him play in many a year) play solo gigs here in London. It was a knock-out, bow-down two weeks of jams, grooves and gut-bucket growling that (kinda) added up to a complete Allmans gig.
Shit … I got way off track. What was it that I wanted to say? Oh yes: learning to play the guitar is not easy. I just started teaching myself how play to a few months ago (“teaching myself” … sounds better than playing with myself … which, actually, might produce a more satisfactory result than teaching myself how to play this damn six string monster). I am using Apple’s Grage Band software to guide me through the in’s and out’s of the fretboard. If you are a beginner, this is a good program. So far I like the lesson structure and I am in control of the pace.
Tonight I was trying to learn barre chords. Sons-a-bitch … I thought I was making progress until I ran into this brick wall. As I was trying to get the first finger down across the entire fret, I said out-loud, “this shit ain’t easy.”
I instantly thought of one of the best Allman Brothers deep-cuts on their Dreams box set called, “Just Ain’t Easy.” … it is on the fourth CD of the set. The fourth, and most often, final CD of these early box sets was usually “ruts,” “breakdown lane” and “backroads” territory … commonly known as “filler.”
You have to admit, some of the songs on this Dreams fourth CD is high-quality filler … but, some of it is buried treasure. One of them rare gems was, “Just Ain’t Easy”. I played that shit at high volume quite often. It is a soulful lament for (what I think) was someone (Gregg) trying to kick a very heavy-duty drug habit. This ditty is a derge dressed up as a slow, thick, soul sender. Check it out: Just Ain’t Easy
Anyhow … I was practicing on my guitar tonight, I went off the road an into the ditch, barely avoiding a head on collision with a barre chord. While I was trying to pull myself out of it, I remembered that … it just ain’t that easy.
Okay, I couldn’t find a version of “Just Ain’t Easy” on YOuTube, but I did find more buried treasure fromt eh 4th CD of Dreams: a rowdy “Can’t Take it With You.” This is a tough as leather ripper.