Brooks’ new album Fun, out Friday (Nov. 20), features a poignant duet with the recent CMA Willie Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award winner. In an interview with the Washington Post, the younger country legend shares that an internet rumor of Pride’s death was the push he needed to ask Pride to share a song with him.
“I slammed the laptop and Miss [Trisha] Yearwood said, ‘What’s wrong?’ I said, ‘Charley Pride passed away,'” Brooks remembers of first seeing the false report. “‘I blew it. I’ve had a song I wanted to sing with him for 10 years and my lazy a– didn’t get it done. It’s just one of those things where I just blew my chance.'”
Lucky for Brooks, Pride was still alive, he learned the next day. So, Brooks called Pride up and finally made the ask. Pride said yes, and Brooks flew to Dallas, Texas, to record “Where the Cross Don’t Burn” together.
The ballad, which begins with a single acoustic guitar and soon fills with steady drums, piano, steel guitar and soaring strings, tells the story of a young white boy and an older Black man from the literal opposite side of the track. As the Troy Jones and Phil Thomas-penned lyrics share, the two forge a lifelong friendship “in the land where cotton grows / In a time when change came slow.”
After Brooks sets the scene in the first verse, Pride dispenses words of love, faith and acceptance in the second verse. By the third verse, however, Brooks is gathered with others “to say our last goodbyes to my very best friend” and spread his ashes in the river they often visited together.
In addition to Pride, the 15-track Fun features Blake Shelton (“Dive Bar,” a previous single) and Yearwood (a cover of “Shallow,” their current single). Brooks also released his new live album, Triple Live Deluxe, on Friday; the project culls together performances from his post-retirement 2014-2017 World Tour and his Stadium Tour, which is currently on hold due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.