Michael Ray is marrying his love for yesteryears’ country hits with his artistry for a new covers project aptly titled, the Bootlegger Sessions. The first preview of it is his take on Tracy Lawrence’s big 1996 hit, “Time Marches On.”

Recorded live, the fresh rendition features Ray’s ever-rich baritone and a well-layered, stripped-down production elevated by the simple sounds of brisk drumbeats and acoustic guitar strums.

The South moves north / North moves south A star is born, a star burns out / The only thing that stays the same is / Everything changes, everything changes,” Ray sings in the nostalgic chorus.

What the “Think a Little Less” hitmaker is plotting for his next release is certainly exciting, because it helps introduce today’s generation of country fans to the beloved ‘80s and ‘90s country classics. That perhaps is the generation-transcending power of storytelling songs and the benefit of having a contemporary country star with a deep reverence for the genre's trailblazers.

“What I love most about country music is its storytelling … those honest tales about our lives, loves, heartbreaks and the lessons we take with us,” Ray shares on social media. “I grew up on songs like ‘The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia,’ ‘The Chair,’ ‘Time Marches On’ and so many others that have made this genre what it is and continue to inspire the music I make today!!! To put it simply, you just won’t find a bigger country music fan than this guy right here.”

“As long as I’m blessed enough to do what I love and write and sing my music, I plan to do everything I can to honor this genre and all the legends who have come before me. That’s what the #BootleggersSessions are all about to me!” he adds in another post.

While no date has been announced for the complete release of Ray’s Bootlegger Sessions, the Eustis, Fla., native says he’ll be progressively dropping the covers of his “personal favorite” country songs “for the next several weeks.”

This is not the first time Ray is paying homage to his influences and the ‘80s and ‘90s era of country music During the early onset of the Covid-19 lockdowns, he created and launched his Honkytonk Tuesday Livestream series, where he covered various ‘80s and ‘90s country songs and invited superstars synonymous with that era, including Collin Raye, Deana Carter, Steve Wariner, Terri Clark and Lee Greenwood.

Prior to this, Ray released his live EP the Warehouse Session earlier this month and the Higher Education EP in 2021. The seven-song set features his evocative current single "Holy Water" and "Whiskey and Rain," which went No. 1 on country radio in January 2022.

"Time Marches On" is the title track and second single off Lawrence’s fourth studio album, which dropped in January 1996. It spent three weeks atop Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart in June 1996.

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