REVIEW: Joey Feek – ‘If Not For You’

LifeInASong_UK

The passing of Joey Feek in April 2016 was acutely felt by the country music family. One year on, and to mark the anniversary, an album that she recorded in 2005 has now been released. Her story, culminating in her long and painful battle with cervical cancer, touched the hearts and minds of everyone who willed the miracle that sadly never materialised.

The devotion and support provided by husband Rory was an inspiration and a testament to the bond that they had formed throughout their 14-year marriage. His contribution, not only in relation to the care and support for Joey but also his absolute commitment to their three young daughters is a watermark that few could emulate.

Their music careers began before their partnership but success only came following a performance on CMT’s ‘Can You Duet’ TV talent show in 2008 which led directly to them signing a record deal with Sugar Hill Records. They went on to record eight studio albums culminating in ‘Hymns That Are Important To Us’ which has sold in excess of half a million copies.

In the spring of 2005, Joey Feek had been married to Rory for three years and her hopes and aspirations were focused upon being a successful solo country singer. Rory made his living as a songwriter but supported his wife’s dreams to the extent that he penned a number of these songs and produced the album that was supposed to launch her solo career.

Joey was working full time at a horse vet clinic, but her passion was country music. The album was released under her maiden name Joey Martin. It was titled ‘Strong Enough To Cry’ and they did everything they could as independent artists to promote it. Two music videos. Two radio tours around the country but it was largely ignored.

Barry Manilow recorded a song a while ago which played a large part in one of his stage performances. It related to his early days as a piano player on Broadway. The song ‘God Bless The Other 99’ paid homage to the 99 who had auditioned but had been rejected in order for the chosen one to get the part. In 2005, Joey Feek was one of the 99.

Rory has recently said that “Joey was beyond broken hearted. And I was broken hearted for her”.

The album sold in modest numbers at merchandise tables at her live shows or in local stores but it was soon consigned to the shelf where for the most part it has remained until a decision was made to re-release and give it the exposure it so obviously deserves.

Joey’s sleeve notes stretching over 48 pages tell the story of the songs and clearly make a physical purchase crucial for the listener to appreciate the inception and development of this project. The songs, although written and recorded a decade ago, are timeless and never stray too far from the familiar sounds that we associate with her work accompanying her husband.

An early solo version of the couple’s ‘That’s Important To Me’ is included but the emotional impact of ‘See You There’ will surely touch many. It’s a song that was written about her younger brother Justin who was killed in road traffic accident close to the family farm in 1994. It now takes on added pathos and is the reason why we are all passionate about the power that a great country song can produce.

It’s not an album that is swamped in tear-jerkers however. You won’t be able to avoid toe-tapping to ‘When The Needle Hit The Vinyl’ which is as traditionally up-beat country as it will ever get.

‘The Cowboy’s Mine’ has a bluegrass vibe and keeps the fiddles at the forefront of the mix and the quick-step rhythm will delight the line dancers.

However, the quality of Joey’s voice shines brightest on the mid-tempo offerings and ballads that relate to the things that matter to her. Her southern upbringing and her love of horses.

We missed this one in 2005 when it first saw the light of day. It’s an album that is as good now as it was back then. Joey Feek wanted the world to hear her music. We have a second chance to do so. Let’s just make the most of that chance.

Graham Wharton

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