Despite their decades in the music business, Pat Boone and Crystal Gayle had never met, but it didn’t take them very long to become friends. The legendary performer and the country singer recently recorded a new version of Crystal’s hit “You and I,” which appears on Pat’s latest album, Country Jubilee.

The project has been very close to Pat’s heart. Not only is the video for “You and I” dedicated to his late wife, Shirley, but it’s also been a refreshing change of pace for this Nashville-reared performer to release an all-country-music album. “I was never considered a country performer,” Pat, 89, tells Closer. “I was a rock ’n’ roller. I did big band, swing, jazz, heavy metal — almost every kind of music. But I had a dream that I had a big country hit record.”

Like Pat, Crystal, 72, has had a long, successful career that’s difficult to label. Although she’s the younger sister of Loretta Lynn, Crystal’s biggest hit, 1977’s “Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue,” topped both the pop and country charts. The song also won Crystal the Grammy for Best Female Country Vocal Performance. “I knew she could sing beautifully, and I thought I could at least carry a tune with her,” Pat jokes about duetting with Crystal on “You and I,” a song she made a hit in 1982.

The pair met in Nashville to record and bonded from the start. “I grew up with Pat. Not just with his music, but with all his great movies, too,” Crystal tells Closer. “He’s such a warm person, and he put me right at ease. He’s also a true person. You know he’s going to tell it to you straight.”

It also felt good to be involved in a recording so meaningful to Pat. “It was really touching to hear him speak about Shirley,” Crystal says. “I could feel her presence just by the warmth that surrounded Pat.”

Pat explains that the lyrics of “You and I” brought back a lot of memories of his courtship with Shirley. “I was singing about my wife and the promises we made from the first embrace,” he explains. “We were 16. I had gone steady with a few girls, but Shirley and I were just strongly attracted to each other. We’d walk two miles through the snow to the hamburger place, holding hands.”

Their youth made some well-meaning elders advise them to see other people, but Pat and Shirley always returned to each other. “My best buddy would invite out Shirley and I’d ask out a girl he liked,” confides Pat. “Somehow we’d get tangled up and I’d end up in the back seat with Shirley!”

Country Jubilee also features country standards that Pat has recorded over the years, including “Cold, Cold Heart,” “Take These Chains From My Heart ” and “Tennessee Waltz.” Shirley, who often sang with Pat, can be heard on the track “I’d Do It With You.”

The new song “Grits” is a great favorite of Pat’s and an ode to country comforts and traditions. “I dreamed this first verse,” says Pat, before singing a bit. “The chorus of the song is: ‘I’m glad I grew up in the country, mama cooked the best food she could. Does the tummy good!’ I feel like the song is funny, clever and current.”

For Pat, Country Jubilee has been a special homecoming. “My recording career spans 70 years now,” he says. “But I was not considered a country performer as much as I wanted to be.”