T.G. Sheppard says he was just trying to do something different when he came up with the idea for his new album, 'Partners in Rhyme.' "There are so many duet albums out there, how do you make yours different?" he asks philosophically, as he talks about the two-CD, 19-song project with vocals from friends including Jerry Lee Lewis, George Jones, Conway Twitty, Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson, The Oak Ridge Boys, Delbert McClinton, Steve Cropper and Sheppard's wife, Kelly Lang, who co-wrote many of the songs.

Sheppard had two criteria when it came to pitching duet partners: He wanted to work with his friends, specifically those who have a distinct sound. "I wanted to invite the artists who when you hear them, you know instantly who they are -- Willie, George, the Oaks, Jerry Lee," Sheppard tells The Boot. "And I got very excited when I started hearing back from people who wanted to be a part of it."

Sheppard not only recorded the project, he documented it in HD format and includes that DVD in the three-disc package for the price of $19.95, a welcome bargain in these economic times. "We ended up with a 90 minute DVD that shows the artists in the studio and the whole process of how records are made," the singer explains. "It also shows that there was laughter and tears among us as the recording took place. We wanted people to see there is camaraderie among entertainers, especially among the icons."

As might be expected, there were some emotional times in the studio for Sheppard, especially when he and Lewis went in to record. The track with the country rocker, aptly titled 'The Killer,' was recorded in Memphis at Sun Studios. "Jerry Lee is one of the reasons I do what I do. I got turned on to him when I was 15, so to go in the same recording studio and record with him ... God is good. If that doesn't make you know that life is a circle and it all comes back around to you, I don't know what does. It was very magical."

Sheppard tailored songs for each guest artist on 'Partners in Rhyme.' "The songs basically were hand written and hand picked to match the vocal and image of every artist. With the Oak Ridge Boys we picked 'Down on My Knees,"' a gospel song Kelly wrote. The song Delbert and I did, '15 Rounds of Jose Quervo,' was one I had found 11 years ago. By the time we were through recording it, we were all looking for tequila and it had turned into a party in the studio!"

Sheppard has released 56 albums in his illustrious career and is best known for his hits 'Last Cheater's Waltz,' 'Do You Wanna Go to Heaven' and 'I Loved 'Em Every One.' He says with no hesitation, 'I've done a lot of albums in my life, but never has one been more rewarding because I have great friends. When I called them about the project they didn't say, 'Let me check my schedule,' they said, 'When do you want me there?' After 30 years of doing this, I finally realized that I had arrived when I looked over and saw all these great artists singing next to me. It just doesn't get any better than this."