Jack Ingram recently covered Merle Haggard, right in front of The Hag himself. Ingram sang 'Are The Good Times Really Over For Good' when the Country Radio Broadcasters honored Haggard with its Career Achievement Award earlier this month. The singer says when he was just starting out, he played that song many times.

"I was playing in this bar that had a jukebox filled with great Merle Haggard songs, so I had to learn to play them," he explains. "I haven't played it in 10 years, so when they called me to sing a song I chose to do this one. While I was relearning it, the thing that struck me about that song is how timely it is now. Here we are 28 years later, and the same things are going on. It's almost comforting to know that this is what we do -- we go through the same problems over and over and we try to learn a little better each time."

Ingram admits he was nervous playing for Haggard but says it was a thrill and an honor. "I was grateful to be there," he gushes. "I was honored to sing his song. He had an impact in my life. That's it, that's all I need. I just wanted to pay my respect."

The respect was mutual. Haggard gave Ingram a shout-out after his performance, commending his take on 'Are the Good Times Really Over for Good.'

"When he got up onstage and mentioned my name, I didn't know what to do or where to look," Ingram says. "I mean, he's Merle Haggard! I'm just glad he liked the way I sang his song; that he mentioned me at all, let alone in such a positive way -- it blows my mind. No one would dare dream that."

Ingram compares Haggard to Mt. Rushmore when it comes to his impact on country music. "He's the face of what this music has been and, by his tenacity, his attitude, his image and the timelessness of his music, he is the face of the good parts of what this music can be. A lot of people go, 'I don't like that Hee Haw kind of country, that real twangy stuff.' But if you listen to Haggard, the stuff he sang was from an era that was real twangy, old-school country, but the lyrics and messages are so forward thinking and so raw and edgy, it's rock and roll in nature. And his is as edgy as you get! It's as edgy as the Sex Pistols, Johnny Cash, or all that stuff. It's hanging out there on the edge of the cliff going, 'Hey man, let's talk about some things that are real.' I love it."