50 Greatest City, State, And Town Songs – #10: “Midnight In Montgomery” by Alan Jackson
50 Greatest City, State, And Town Songs: #10
“Midnight In Montgomery” by Alan Jackson
Album: “Don’t Rock The Jukebox”
Chart peak: #3
City, State, or Town: Montgomery, Alabama
Now we enter the top 10, the big guns. And Who better to start it off than Alan Jackson with a hit from his sophomore album. Alan Jackson himself has become an inspirational and influential artist among country music newcomers. However when he first started out in the early 1990s, Alan wrote and recorded a song for and about one of his greatest heroes and influences, the great Hank Williams. Alan tells the story of a singer on his way to a New years gig in Alabama when he stops in Hank’s old home town of Montgomery only to have one of the most mystifying and effective experiences of his life. In a story Alan only wishes he could live, Alan created a tribute to possibly the most influential and memorable country singer that any fan could point out.
The song begins with Alan as a singer, fitting, who is telling the story as a recollection of sorts. He sets the scene in Alabama by explaining he was on his way to Mobile for a show on New Years Eve. He then refers to a friend as his reason for stopping and he reveals that he stopped near a grave yard to pay his respects to that person. While he sits at the grave, Alan and the listener are given the opportunity to meet this person as he shows up out of the shadows. He greats Alan and thanks him for caring before he disappears into the mist. Alan can only describe him as a tall man with a cowboy hat and a Nudi suit, thus revealing that for a brief and shining moment this singer that Alan portrays got to meet the ghost of the great Hank Williams. His ghost disappears into the night and Alan is left to ponder what exactly had occured that very moment.
After taking in the events, Alan moves to the second verse consisting of the classical symbol of the afterlife within the country music world. As he climbs back on the bus he catches a glimpse of Hank’s shadowy figure one last time before hearing a trail roll by, a symbol that Hank has moved on. As he hears the train loneliness strikes him as he realizes once again that the singer he looks up to is gone and the circumstances of his death all come back to the light. In the chorus Alan turns the story into somewhat of a legend as he suggests that at midnight in the plains and hills of Montgomery, Alabama, if you listen closely and if the wind is right you’ll hear the songs of Hank Williams in the air and smell his trademark whisky that made him the ultimate figure in the genre in his days. He ends by concluding that hank will always be singing there, where he spent most of his life.
If you haven’t gotten it by now, this song was written for and about the great Hank Williams by Alan Jackson. This song is his way of expressing the connection and effect that Hank’s music had on his life and how personal it would be for him to have one opportunity to meet him or experience his presence again. He signifies Montgomery as Hank’s home and the place where he is not only buried, but where he spent most of his life an career up to his bitter end from overdose. It provides a haunting instrumental compilation that brings out the most amazing and respectable aspect of this song quite well.
As a songwriter, Alan has been known for many great works. However this has to be one of his best. It shows his personal respect for country music, for a country legend, and for the town that Hank loved so much. It also shows his ability to take symbols and concepts and mix them into a successful and enjoyable piece of work. One of the most interesting aspects of the song is that Alan never actually refers to Hank until the very last line of the song. This ensures that even if you fail to translate the message throughout the entire song, you will understand by the time it’s done that this is written about and for the great Hank Williams and his resting place in Montgomery, Alabama.