Friday, May 7, 2010

Alan Jackson, "Hard Hat and a Hammer"

If you bought Alan Jackson's new album Freight Train, no doubt the first thing you heard when you popped it in the player was the infectious fiddle kickoff of the opening track and current single "Hard Hat and a Hammer."

The song's title says it all. It is a song that extols the virtues of the common working man, proudly declaring that "There's nothing wrong with a hard hat and a hammer." Unfortunately, this song has a hard time standing out among so many similarly-themed songs, both in Alan's personal collection of tunes, and in the country genre as a whole. Granted, Alan came from a working-class family, and he is singing about something he truly believes in, but that may not be obvious to someone who does not know about Alan's background.

But even though the song's theme is well-worn territory, the lyrics are fairly decent. Alan metaphorically describes the working man as "the kind of glue that keeps this world together." Thus, he adds a poetic touch, but does so in a way that doesn't sound cheesy. One of the song's positive traits is that it does not idolize the working class - it merely expresses appreciation for the role they play in society. It is not uncommon for such a song to assume an air of superiority, but this is one pitfall that Alan wisely avoids.
The song is further elevated by the excellent production that has characterized much of Alan's music. Any country fan can enjoy the sound of that fiddle player sawing away on those strings, combined with the twang of the steel guitar. This is one of the most genuinely country sounding songs we have heard this year, and that is just what we would expect from Alan Jackson.

When I hear that distinctive fiddle intro coming out of my radio, I will likely be turning up the volume. Alan might not be breaking new ground here, but there's nothing wrong with "Hard Hat and a Hammer."

(Scores are given on a scale of 1 to 10)