It Ain't Easy

Originally Performed ByRon Davies
Original AlbumSilent Song Through The Land (1970)
Music/LyricsRon Davies
Phish Debut2016-10-31
Last Played2016-10-31
Current Gap281
HistorianMartin Acaster (Doctor_Smarty)
Last Update2016-12-14


When David Bowie included his cover version of Louisiana born and Pacific Northwest raised songwriter Ron Davies’ gritty blues standard “It Ain’t Easy” on his acclaimed 1972 album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, he was the fourth artist in two years to pay tribute to the Davies original. This near simultaneous celebration of the tune was initiated by Three Dog Night (It Ain’t Easy - 1970), sustained by Long John Baldry (It Ain’t Easy - 1971), prolonged by Dave Edmunds (Rockpile - 1972) and concluded by Bowie shortly after Davies own release of the track on his 1970 debut album Silent Song Through the Land

Ron Davies “It Ain’t Easy”

Although Bowie’s version may be the one that gave the song the “Fame” it deserved, it was already obviously - MY JAM - for anybody who had heard it during that time period. Further evidence of the tune’s curious popularity and the wide-ranging appreciation for Davies songwriting abilities are the numerous alternate versions which have followed, including those by Graham Bonnett (Graham Bonnett - 1977), Chris Smither (It Ain’t Easy - 1984), Hazel (Crash Course for the Ravers: A Tribute to the Songs of David Bowie - 1996), Baby Gramps (The Mystery of Ron Davies a Pacific Northwest Tribute - 2011), and  Shelby Lynne (Unsung Hero: A Tribute to the Music of Ron Davies - 2013).

It would certainly be easy to to cast our collective hairy eyeball on Trey’s Naked and Afraid albeit jaunty as fuck crushed velvet jacket clad turn as an axe-less lead singer on this number; however, the vocal performance was courageously vulnerable, well rehearsed and quite moving. Unfortunately, by once again laying down his primary battle weapon (the recurring theme for 2016), we are left wanting for Trey’s take on the sultry slide guitar featured in many of the earlier versions. Excluding the backing vocals provided by Jennifer Hartswick, Celisse Henderson, and Jo Lampert, the 10/31/16 Phish performance, absent the requisite shuffling blues guitar, places towards the middle of the pack in the wide array of takes on “It Ain’t Easy.” This of course proves the primary assertion of the song’s lyrics. Thankfully, Davies’ words are strong enough to carry the day and Trey’s soulful soliloquy provided enough satisfaction, satisfaction to keep me satisfied.

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