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Rooted in Country: Kayla Ray on Merle Haggard's 'Heaven Was a Drink of Wine'

Much like numerous singer-songwriter peers, Kayla Ray learned valuable lessons from The Hag's college of country music knowledge.

When asked about a song that shaped her creative vision, Wide Open Country's Act to Watch for October selected "Heaven Was a Drink of Wine" from Merle Haggard's 1979 album Serving 190 Proof.

"First of all, it's a country song about Merle Haggard's therapist and how his therapist can't touch his alcoholism because of a love that he lost, which is in itself already so incredible," Ray said. "But the rhythm section on that whole record is just incredible. It's right in that era where disco was doing the thing. They hint at it just a little bit in the hi-hat and they take it all the way. I love it. It's eternally my favorite."

"Heaven Was a Drink of Wine" was written by Sanger D. Shafer, the pen behind future Haggard No. 1 "That's the Way Love Goes" (co-written by Lefty Frizzell) and George Strait's "All My Ex's Live in Texas" (co-written by Shafer's wife, Lyndia J. Shafer).

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Ray's not the only "Heaven Was a Drink of Wine" superfan. It's been covered live over the years by Jamey Johnson and Eric Church.

"Heaven Was a Drink of Wine" Lyrics

That psychoed-out psychologist
Asked me about my drinking ways
Every question that he asked me
All related back on to my childhood days

But if the truth was known
I never took the drinking long, long as she was mine
But when she left me I went to Hell
Heaven was a drink of wine

That good doctor said, "Look at all
These ink spots and tell me what you see
Could I help it if they all look like
Big ole broken hearts to me?"

All my friends in Cane'll tell you
Ol' Hag ain't a drinking kind
But when she left me I went to Hell
And Heaven was a drink of wine

Get back, get back
Get on back and leave me alone
Can't you see that you can't help
A man that's this far gone

Hey, good doctor, I've got something
You can't find in my mind
When she left me I went to Hell
Heaven was a drink of wine

Hey, good doctor
Heaven was a drink of wine