Alan Jackson has long been one of country music’s most refreshingly original acts, someone who hasn’t compromised his neo-traditional sound along with the changing culture of country music. Take a listen to Tim McGraw’s new song “Still” and one of his singles from Not a Moment Too Soon in succession and the difference is staggering. Jackson’s latest effort though, “Hard Hat and a Hammer”, could easily fit in with his singles from 1996’s Everything I Love.
That sound, a combination of Jackson’s classic baritone and the subtle workings of longtime producer Keith Stegall, are at work in full force on “Hard Hat and a Hammer”, a song about the values of blue-collar life. Lyrically, the song rekindles memories of Zac Brown’s “Chicken Fried” and Alabama’s “40 Hour Week (For a Livin’)”, but ultimately falls short of the down-home charm of the former and the narrative connection of the latter.
Still, Jackson makes this an easy, enjoyable listen from beginning to end, even if it is a bit safe. And after “It’s Just That Way” failed to crack the top 15 at radio, safe probably isn’t a bad course of action. After 20 years of enjoying his work, I’m for anything that keeps Jackson’s “hard hat” relevant for another decade.