My Kind of Country

Country music from a fan's point of view since 2008

Album Review: Joey + Rory – ‘Hymns That Are Important To Us’

hymnsWhat is almost certainly Joey + Rory’s final album (unless they have material on the shelf) is an emotionally charged collection of the hymns Joey grew up singing. Their past few albums have seen Rory taking his share of lead vocals, but this album is focussed on Joey, and is to the unaided ear a solo album with Rory very much in the background. Despite her declining health, her voices as lovely as ever on almost every track. The production is subtle and never gets in the way of the songs, but sets the hymns in a country setting while still sounding as though they could be in church.

It opens accappella as Joey starts a gentle plea to ‘Take My Hand Precious Lord’. ‘I Surrender All’ is treated similarly, with a beautiful understated performance. William Gaither’s ‘He Touched Me’ is also beautiful.

Perhaps my favourite track on an album filled with them is Joey’s version of ‘Softly And Tenderly’. ‘It Is Well With My Soul’ is quietly secure in its expression of faith. The familiar hymns ‘The Old Rugged Cross’ and ‘How Great Thou Art’ are sung with deep devotion, as are the emotional ‘Jesus Paid It All’ and ‘Suppertime’.

She sounds charmingly engaged on the popular children’s hymn ‘Jesus Loves Me; a children’s chorus is used sparingly and low in the mix, making it a subtle augmentation. Joey is brightly positive on ‘I’ll Fly Away’, although her breath seems a little short.

‘I Need Thee Every Hour’ is introduced with one phrase recorded more recently, in which we hear the frailer Joey whispering as her health declines. Is this just a little too personal? It certainly adds even more poignancy.

This is not the kind of gospel that shouts with joy. The mood is subdued but never sad, confident of eternal salvation. Joey’s deep faith is palpably sincere every second.

The album closes with a bonus cut: Joeys’ exquisite recording of the song ‘When I’m Gone’, a song recognising impending death and offering comfort to those she leaves behind. When she recorded this song it was in memory of a friend, while she herself was still in full health. Revisited here, it underlines the sadness of her situation, and yet the acceptance she brings to bear.

It is hard to separate one’s response to this album from the circumstances around it, but I think it would stand high if heard in isolation. It really is impeccably performed, with Joey’s lovely voice at the heart of it all.

Grade: A+

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3 responses to “Album Review: Joey + Rory – ‘Hymns That Are Important To Us’

  1. Razor X February 25, 2016 at 9:47 am

    I think your last paragraph sums it all up. The album would definitely hold up on its own, if one didn’t know about the personal tragedy Joey is going through. But knowing it makes it a very poignant listening experience indeed. I always feel a little sad when I listen to Tammy Wynette, Conway Twitty or Keith Whitley, who all left us too soon. I get that same feeling when listening to this album.

    I was very pleased to see that album debuted at #1 on the Billboard Top Country Albums chart. It’s nice to see the public rallying around the Feeks during their hour of need.

  2. Pingback: Album Review: Wade Bowen – ‘Then Sings My Soul’ | My Kind of Country

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