The husband and wife duo, Joey + Rory, have won over a legion of country music fans with their appearances on CMT’s Can You Duet? competition show. Reportedly, their love of traditional leaning country music and for each other was very palpable throughout the weeks on the competition. Both Joey Martin and Rory Feek have had successful careers apart from their more recent musical partnership—Rory a successful Nashville songwriter (“Chain Of Love, “How Do You Get That Lonely”, “Some Beach”, “You Can Let Go”) and Joey a successful restaurant owner with Rory’s sister.
While the duo may have only finished in third place on the CMT show, they have signed a record deal with the highly esteemed Sugar Hill Records. As someone who did not catch any of the episodes of Can You Duet? at the time of their airings, it was the news of their deal with Sugar Hill Records that, ultimately, caught my attention. To me, Sugar Hill represents music with integrity, which is exactly what makes Joey + Rory’s debut project such a pleasant success.
While The Life Of A Song covers the themes of love, cheating and spirituality that are often associated with country music, there is plenty of cleverness and wit to elevate the album above typical country music fare. Of the most amusing songs on the project, the opening song entreats the music industry, radio and likely us, the critics, to simply “play the song.” While their message is likely serious to them as artists, their delivery is purposefully mixed with truth and fun rather than bitter confrontation: “And it’s too bad/if you ask me,/Our song’s gotta be so darn P.C/so DAMN P.C.”
Similar to “Play The Song,” the first single, “Cheater Cheater,” is a song with a bitter undercurrent that’s presented with good-natured humor: “Now I’m not one to judge someone that I ain’t never met/But to lay your hands on a married man’s ’bout as low as a gal can get/Hey, I wish her well, as she rots in hell, and you can tell her I said So/Cheater cheater, where’d you meet that no good, white trash ho?”
In addition to the aforementioned songs, “Tune Of A Twenty Dollar Bill” and “Boots” are the only other decidedly up-tempo tracks on the album. “Boots” is, frankly, an ode to cowboy boots and “Tune Of A Twenty Dollar Bill” is a sweet song that follows the relationship of a couple from the very beginning with the man falling in love with his future bride in a white baptismal dress to the moment she’s in that same dress in a casket with the man as in love as ever promising that he would be “right behind her.”
On the softer side of things, “Sweet Emmylou” is a gorgeous song that tastefully name checks Emmylou Harris while “Loved The Hell” plays with the phrase “I loved the hell out of him”, which both refers to unconditional love and spiritual rebirth. “Rodeo” is a plea from a woman to the Rodeo to let go of the stronghold that it has on her man. She laments, “If you were just another woman, maybe I’d know what to do/He might give his heart to me, but he’d give his life for you.” Finally, the title track is a heartfelt tribute to the significance and power of a song, which is a fitting way to end the album.
Joey, who provides the lead vocals, has both a strong and sensitive voice somewhat reminiscent of a young Wynonna Judd while Rory, her willing side man, provides gentle harmony vocals that quietly, but effectively, supports and blends well with his wife’s. While not all of the songs on the album are written by them, Joey + Rory have demonstrated their keen ability to both write and select quality songs.
This culmination of substantive songs with memorable melodies , along with the tastefully soft acoustic productions, certainly gives this record the integrity worthy of a Sugar Hill Records release and will, no doubt, land somewhere on my top five albums for 2008.