Going into the 2023 CMA Awards, fans knew to expect a big announcement following Morgan Wallen, Post Malone and Hardy's performance on the awards show. They also knew that the moment would feature a tribute to Joe Diffie, thanks to a slip of the tongue from show host Luke Bryan the day before.

Still, no one could have predicted something exactly like this, because it's never been done before.

Hardy, Wallen and Malone performed two of Diffie's biggest hits — "John Deere Green" and "Pickup Man" — simultaneously announcing that the third volume of the Hardy-curated Hixtape collaboration series is on its way, and both those Diffie covers will feature on the track list.

In fact, the whole Hixtape Vol. 3 will be a tribute to Diffie, so much so that Hardy's subtitling the project Difftape.

These songs won't just be straight-ahead covers, either. Backstage after the CMA Awards, Hardy revealed to press that the new tracks were created from recording sessions Diffie taped in the '90s, complete with his voice on them.

"You guys are familiar with my Hixtape thing," Hardy recounted. "So by the grace of God, Hixtape Vol. 3 is going to be a little bit different ... we have gotten ahold of all of Joe Diffie's recordings from the '90s, the actual sessions themselves."

"What we have basically done with Hixtape, is we have taken some of Joe's vocals out and added some of the biggest singers in country music to help him out," he concluded. "... It's gonna be bada-- and I'm really excited about it."

Editor's Note: In a statement to Taste of Country, Big Loud Records subsequently clarified that "The Diffie vocals featured on Hixtape Vol. 3: Difftape are not the original versions recorded in the 90s and owned by Sony but rather re-records from a 2006 studio session."

He hasn't shared the full list of collaborators for his new Hixtape, but Hardy's CMAs duet partners — Wallen and Malone — are among them. Studio versions of the songs the trio performed are out now, to tide fans over until Hixtape comes out next year.

A statement from Diffie's estate matches Hardy's enthusiasm about his Hixtape brainchild, adding that "this collaboration promises to carry on the incredible journey of a true legend."

"Joe epitomized the '90s country voice — he was so good about hearing and cutting hits, recording amazing songs," Hardy adds in a statement. "On a personal level, I only got to meet Joe Diffie once, but he was extremely nice to me, and this was in my first year of being an artist when I was an absolute nobody. He was so, so kind to me and that memory I have of him is truly special to me, too."

Hixtape Vol. 3: Difftape will arrive on March 29, 2024.

2023 CMA Awards Red Carpet Pictures

See the best dressed from the 2023 CMA Awards red carpet.

The 2023 CMA Awards aired live on ABC from Nashville's Bridgestone Arena on Nov. 8. Luke Bryan and Peyton Manning hosted the show for a second straight year. Luke Combs, Carrie Underwood, Chris Stapleton, Lainey Wilson and Morgan Wallen were nominated in the Entertainer of the Year category.

Gallery Credit: Billy Dukes

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