“Sitting here waiting on the sun in a deer blind…here’s a new one,” Wallen wrote via Instagram on Sunday (Jan. 8), along with an audio snippet of a demo tape labeled “Keith Whitley Ref 1 Jan 6.”
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The ballad, which includes the lyrics, “I’m no stranger to the rain/ It starts rainin’, I start pouring, I’ll take hurtin’ like hell in the morning over feeling this way…there ain’t a mirror in this house anymore,” nods to Whitley songs including “I Never Go Around Mirrors” and “I’m No Stranger to the Rain.”
This isn’t the first time Wallen has paid tribute to Whitley. Over the holidays, Wallen shared a video of himself singing a cover of Whitley’s “Kentucky Bluebird,” calling it one of his favorite Whitley songs. The song is the title track to a 1991 Whitley compilation album.
Whitley, who was posthumously inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2022, is known for his hits including “I’m No Stranger to the Rain,” “Miami, My Amy.” As a teenager, Kentucky native Whitley teamed with another talented teen, Ricky Skaggs, to begin a bluegrass band, and soon bluegrass luminary Ralph Stanley hired Whitley and Skaggs as part of his own Clinch Mountain Boys.
By 1977, Whitley had joined J.D. Crowe & the New South, performing on albums including 1982’s Somewhere Between. In 1984, Whitley inked a deal with RCA Records and released the EP A Hard Act to Follow. He followed by his album L.A. to Miami, which included the singles “Ten Feet Away,” “Homecoming ’63” and “Hard Livin’.” Whitley’s 1988 album, Don’t Close Your Eyes, earned Whitley three consecutive Billboard Hot Country Songs chart toppers, including “When You Say Nothing at All,” “I’m No Stranger to the Rain,” and the album’s title track. Whitley died on May 9, 1989.
Later this year, Wallen will launch his massive One Night at a Time World Tour. He will welcome several openers for various shows, including HARDY, ERNEST, Bailey Zimmerman and Parker McCollum. The U.S. leg of the tour includes stops at Boston’s Fenway Park, Los Angeles’ SoFi Stadium, Chicago’s Wrigley Field, St, Louis’ Busch Stadium and Detroit’s Ford Field, while the trek will also head overseas to Australia and New Zealand.
Listen to the clip of Wallen’s new tribute song to Whitley below.