A rising country star nails a classic country cover Instagram / shanetarleton
Instagram / shanetarleton

Keith Whitley may have passed away years ago, but his classic country songs continue to touch the hearts of people everywhere.

The latest example of that took place recently at a show inside Nashville’s popular music club, The National Underground, owned by brothers Gavin and Joey DeGraw.

RELATED: This new country voice tackles an old Keith Whitley classic

There, rising country music star Michael Ray — who is known for songs like “Kiss You in the Morning,” “Think a Little Less” and, most recently, “Get to You” — put his own unique and personal spin on the late country singer-songwriter’s ’80 hit, “Don’t Close Your Eyes” from his sophomore album of the same name.

And, let’s just say that Michael totally nailed his rendition of the classic ballad, which was named Billboard magazine’s No. 1 country single of the year in 1988.

An onlooker who works at Michael’s record label, Warner Music, caught footage of his performance, shared the rendition on Instagram and included the caption, “Real country music downtown.UNICORN!!!!! @michaelraymusic.”

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Real country music downtown. UNICORN!!!!! @michaelraymusic

A post shared by Shane Tarleton (@shanetarleton) on


As you can see in the clip above, Michael looks so at ease while he holds the microphone in his hand. A full band accompanies the handsome Florida native as he utilizes his deep southern vocals and traditional country twang to blow the audience away with the emotional love song.

“Don’t close your eyes, let it be me / Don’t pretend it’s him, in some fantasy / Darling just once, let yesterday go / And you’ll find more love than you’ll ever know,” Michael sings with so much passion. “Just hold me tight, when you love me tonight / And don’t close your eyes.”

“Wow! Instant fan here,” one person commented on the video of Michael belting out the song.

“What a classic voice! Don’t hear those too often these days,” another commenter added.

A third fan wrote, “Love him!!! Good stuff as always.”

RELATED: Keith Whitley’s very last No. 1 hit was one to celebrate

As many fans already know, Keith’s death sent a shock wave through the country music community. The singer-songwriter, who was married to fellow country singer Lorrie Morgan, died tragically from alcohol poisoning on May 9, 1989. He was only 33-years-old, and his career was still very much on the rise at the time of his death. In fact, both “Don’t Close Your Eyes” and “I’m No Stranger to the Rain” went No. 1 shortly before his untimely passing.


As for Michael, his rendition of the Keith hit comes after a few bumps in the road. Over the holidays he was involved in a minor car collision in a McDonald’s drive-thru in Florida, and was charged by local police with driving under the influence and possession of cannabis oil. Not long after issuing a public apology to fans, he shared some scary news — his father, Jerry Roach, would be undergoing open-heart surgery. Michael asked fans for “good vibes and prayers.” And it turns out that those prayers were answered, because his father’s surgery was a success.

It’s nice to see that things are looking up for Michael!

Nashville-based writer and Rare Country contributor Melinda Lorge has always been passionate about country music. Follow her @MelindaLorge and join the conversation @RareCountry.
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