Joey + Rory, The Life of a Song

Joey + Rory
The Life of a Song

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.

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11 Comments

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11 Responses to Joey + Rory, The Life of a Song

  1. Sweet review, as always. I personally wouldn’t rate it this high, but I think you highlighted a lot of why this album succeeds when it does, and why they’re such a breath of fresh air.

    I think my main problem with the album is the glut of songs that personify specific objects (“Boots,” “Sweet Emmylou,” “Rodeo,” the title track), most of which I find kind of uninteresting. I guess I have trouble relating to their subject matter, which might be why most of the themes in them sound forced to me. The only one of that ilk that I really like on the album is “Heart of the Wood,” which I think succeeds because it tells a very specific story in a very specific way, so even an outsider can understand its significance. That’s just my opinion, though.

    And that said, there are lot of tracks here that I really love – “Play the Song,” “Cheater, Cheater,” “Heart of the Wood,” even the cover of “Free Bird” (I have to be in right mood for it, but it’s solid).

    So I still think they have oodles of talent and potential. But I have to say, I really wish Rory would have sung lead on some songs, as I think that would have given it all a better sense of balance, plus he just sounds like a great singer. But anyway, it’s a good start for them.

    Ah, long comments.

  2. Chris D.No Gravatar

    Nice review. The only song I didn’t like was “Boots”, I guess I’m not really a cowboy. xD

  3. MarcNo Gravatar

    I’d give it a 4 after a first listen through.. it’s simple but effective. We’ll see how long it gets rotation on the ‘pod.

  4. Doc BrowneNo Gravatar

    Enjoyed your review, Leeann. This couple represents the “fresh face” category that, as a child of the 60s, reminds me of the emergent folk music of that era – “organic,” spontaneous, commercially unprocessed, and as
    unpretentious as a pair of old blue jeans….
    nicely deviated from conventional sounds.

  5. CMWNo Gravatar

    Nice piece, Leeann. When release week came and went without a review, I thought maybe we wouldn’t be seeing one from you after all. Glad to finally read your thoughts and find that, once again, we basically agree… right down to the star rating.

  6. Blake BoldtNo Gravatar

    3.5 stars. Although Joey is designed to be the “star”, I would’ve appreciated a little more Rory. Carl Jackson’s subtle production is terrific, and the standout tracks outweigh a couple clunky moments (for example, “Boots”). Having seen them live, I can say they are the real deal.

  7. Leeann WardNo Gravatar

    CMW, you’re the man!! It’s fun agreeing with you all the time.

    I really should have reviewed it sooner, but life got away from me. I toyed with 4 stars, but settled on 4.5 because I really like the album that much.

    I, too, would love to hear more Rory next time around, but I’m not complaining about hearing Joey, because I love her voice. It’d be cool if they did a Kasey Chambers and Shane Nicholson kind of thing and shared lead vocal roles rather than one doing all of them. I do think Rory harmonizes very nicely with Joey though, so their choice of Joey being in front and Rory playing a supporting role isn’t a complaint for me. I’m just glad we hear Rory and that he’s not interchangeable with any random good harmony singer. I’d notice, I think, if they switched him out for someone else, which is something I can’t say for Brooks And Dunn.

    I think the only song I really didn’t get into is “To Say Goodbye”, probably because I like very few meant-to-be tear jerkers and I have the hardest heart ever, I suppose.:)

  8. I love this album. “Heart of the Wood” is one of the coolest turn of a hook I know of, in my opinion. But then, im a sucker for coming in with that christian sentiment at the end.

    I loved “To Say Goodbye”. I love that they didnt come right out and say “this is about 9/11′

  9. Liza SchultzNo Gravatar

    I love this duo. They put the old style COUNTRY back into Country Music. I too would like to hear a bit more from Rory. But I would be content to see this couple make it past the one hit wonder stage. Looking forward to the next album.

  10. Jim WisnerNo Gravatar

    How great to hear a genuine Country Album, from a fantastic duo. Their success proves that there is an audience for True Country Music. It seems that the music Executives miss the fact that Genuine Country Music has marketability. Talented singers and musicians, like Joey and Rory, will find they have the most devoted of fans who will always be there to support them. This fan for life can’t wait for the next album!!

  11. I love them! Joey is beautiful and love her voice while Rory is handsome and they make an awesome couple.I love the fact everything about them is real,romantic just down to earth and they dont act like they are better than you are. Keep up the good works guys.