Merle Haggard’s final recording will be unveiled tomorrow (May 12th). According to the late legend’s official website, “Kern River Blues” will premiere on SiriusXM’s Willie’s Roadhouse channel, then be available for download on merlehaggard.com and iTunes.
Written by Haggard and featuring his son Ben on guitar, “Kern River Blues” was recorded at the country icon’s home studio on February 9th, just shy of two months before he died. It seems that although doctors advised Haggard not to tour and to rest at home instead, he still found the strength to lay down the last few tunes he was working on while in the hospital.
After his passing, the Haggard family was so touched by the outpouring of support from his fans they’ve decided to release “Kern River Blues” as a thank you, sending 10 percent of gross proceeds to homeless charities.
“Kern River Blues” is Haggard’s last recording chronologically (although hundreds of unreleased songs are reported to exist) and it’s all about “his memories of leaving Bakersfield in the late Seventies,” according to his website. Featuring a series of feisty lines aimed at politicians and the illusion of progress, the lyrics are also full of autobiographical references to the California native’s birthplace, the converted train car his father turned into the family’s home and even his impending death.
“Well, I’m leaving town forever / Kiss an old boxcar goodbye / Well, I’m leaving town forever / Kiss an old boxcar goodbye / I dug my blues down in the river / But the old Kern River is dry,” goes the song’s haunting final verse.
Merle Haggard passed away April 6th at the age of 79, following a long battle with pneumonia.