Album Review: Joey Feek’s ‘If Not For You’

Over the past few years, the Country Music world latched onto the emotional story of Joey+Rory. The couple’s love story made for a great amount of attention during her battle with cervical cancer. In fact, the couple rightfully seemed joined at the hip, due to their lasting devotion to each other. But, of course, you knew that.

What you might not have known about their story was that they weren’t always a duo. Joey Martin moved from her native Indiana to Music City in search of stardom as a solo artist. After she got here, she eventually married Rory Lee Feek, and the two formed a duo to compete on CMT’s Can You Duet?

What you also might not have known is that Joey recorded a solo album on her own before teaming up with her husband. Titled Strong Enough To Cry, the disc was only available on a limited basis and at her performances. Of course, the success she enjoyed with Rory overshadowed that solo desire, and the album was put to the side.

With her passing in March of 2016, there’s a new group of fans who were never familiar with her on her own, so now, over a decade later, her solo album, now titled If Not For You, will finally see the light of day.

Upon first listen to these “new” cuts, you will find there is nothing too drastically different from the duo’s records here. “That’s Important To Me,” a staple of the couple’s live show is included, and it doesn’t differ much from the version that you know. As is the case with their music, you will find several songs with emotional undercurrents, such as “Strong Enough To Cry” and the tender “Nothing To Remember” that will definitely leave an impact on the listener. But, when it comes to emotion, nothing matches the tear-jerking “See You There,” a song that was inspired by the early passing of her brother. It’s a performance that, when you put it in perspective, will leave you broken up.

There are also some light-hearted moments on the album, including the toe-tapper “When The Needle Hit The Vinyl” and the down-home charmer “The Cowboy’s Mine,” which proves that her light and breezy personality was there from the very beginning of her career. She also tips the hat to her love of horses on the stirring “Old Paint,” which is six and a half minutes of pure beauty and grace.

That’s not to say that Rory’s imprint is not on the music here. His name appears on several cuts as a co-writer, and he also produced the album with Bill McDermott. All in all, fans of the music that this couple made together will definitely gravitate toward the sounds here, proving that Martin knew exactly who she was and who she wanted to be. Thankfully, she got to become that very artist. This is a testament to that!