Death is beautiful.

With the numerous passings of musical icons in the past few months, I felt my respects were best paid in silence. Resisting from a passing tweet or Facebook post but truly giving a few minutes to the appreciation for their lifelong dedication to creating art. Coupled with an unexplainable experience closing out 2015 I found myself questioning and hence appreciating our time in this physical realm. Seeing everything through a completely fresh perspective, it moved me into a place of knowing that we come into this world and have a mission of leaving it a better place. Word’s resonate and thoughts manifest.

It seems suiting that I received news on the passing of Merle Haggard this morning while immersed in the administrative duties of finalizing tour dates and committing to a year in the van with the boys. It was only days ago I felt a strange newfound sense of motivation after seeing the reworked poster for Willie’s performance at Whitewater Amphitheater in New Braunfels, TX. The original bearing Merle’s face alongside Willie’s, it was now promoting Ryan Bingham, Shakey Graves and Jamey Johnson as support for the three night stand. A No. 1 debut with Willie on their Django and Jimmie album, a plethora of click-bait pleas for prayer and finally the soon to be iconic photos taken by Ben Haggard of Sturgill alongside The Hag was the Universe preparing us for the passing of a man that truly accepted his artistic mission.

To communicate how his writing has shaped me in character and self-expression would be extensive. As a band we study his stylings and if ever in a creative bind simply revert to our mantras of ‘what would Merle do?’, ‘how would Roy phrase this?’ and ‘steal something from Redd Volkaert’. We’ve paid for albums and touring vans by playing his songs live for ten years now. Bryce has dissected The Strangers instrumentals and began his own band in the styles of.

With love and white light we wish the soul of Merle a smooth crossing and graciously thank him for all he’s left behind. Prayers to his family and close friends that they find comfort in this time of grieving the physical loss. And finally a heartfelt appreciation for the influence he bestowed on the pathway we are on.

– B