Merle Haggard’s death in 2016 was a huge loss to country music, but the author of the Bakersfield Sound appears to have passed the torch to his son, Ben Haggard. On July 30th, Ben Haggard released video of his solo acoustic version of Merle’s “Way Back in the Mountains.”
Appearing on Merle’s album 1994, “Way Back in the Mountains” tells the story of a man overburdened by poverty and heartbreak deciding to leave the city and return to the mountains, where he can “build a cabin nobody can find.” Ben, the son of Merle and Theresa Ann Lane, would have been one year old at the time of the song’s release. However, the younger Haggard’s voice has a striking resemblance to his father’s, evoking the same hopelessness of the original.
Ben Haggard was raised in the family business, playing lead guitar in Merle’s longtime band The Strangers since age 15. After the death of his father, he has begun touring behind Haggard’s music across the country. His version of “What Am I Gonna Do,” backed by The Strangers, was one of Rolling Stone Country‘s best moments from the Merle Haggard tribute concert in April on the one-year anniversary of his death.