One of the things critics most often praise about Alan Jackson is his authenticity, and he went all out to be realistic when he recorded his current single, “Hard Hat And A Hammer.”
“Hard Hat” is one of his trademark songs in celebration of the working man, and to give it a real air of authority, Alan featured a very unique instrument on the recording.
“I played the anvil,” he says. “‘Hard Hat And A Hammer’ — it’s got an anvil in there if you listen to it. We cut it, and I said, ‘Man, this thing needs, you know, somebody hittin’ a hammer on an anvil.’”
That instrumentation provides a link, in a way, to a key song on Alan’s very first album 20 years ago. The first two lines of “Chasin’ That Neon Rainbow” are “Daddy won a radio/Tuned it to a country show.” Those words come directly from his late father’s life.
The anvil on “Hard Hat And A Hammer,” mounted on a section of a telephone pole, is likewise connected to Alan’s dad, Eugene, who passed away in January 2000. His father owned it.
“It’s a big ol’ anvil,” Alan notes. “The back of it’s broken off, and he got it when he worked for the county farm. They gave it to him ’cause it was broken, I guess, so it stayed in our garage my whole life… I beat on a lot of parts and steel on that thing, and he did, too. And when he died, I got a lot of his stuff, and that anvil’s in my car museum garage there, and so anyway, that’s what we used. We took a hammer, and it didn’t sound right, and we finally had to get two or three different hammers — finally found one that sounded right, and that’s what’s on the record. And I sat there and beat on that anvil.”
Alan’s makeshift instrument has some precedent. When Jimmy Dean recorded “Big Bad John,” a song about a mining disaster, session musician Floyd Cramer simulated the sound of the workers’ axes by hanging an iron doorstop from a hanger and banging on it with a hammer.