CD Review: Joey + Rory – His and Hers (Sugar Hill, 2012)
Rory and Joey Feek have a history of hard work and struggle that could have just as easily led them to day jobs as it has to a record deal. Rory Feek found success as a songwriter, penning hits for Clay Walker, Blake Shelton and Easton Corbin, but failed to catch on as a solo performer. Joey Feek also recorded solo material, but it wasn’t until the couple competed as a duo on the television show Can You Duet that performing success came calling. Even with a third-place finish, the duo attracted the interest of Sugar Hill, and their Top 10 debut album spun off the single “Cheater, Cheater.” Their second album also cashed in the Top 10, and after a Christmas album last year, they’re back with their third studio album in five years.
As on the first two albums, the arrangements lean to acoustic backings, but with the duo trading leads more often, and bringing their record in line with their live show. The productions are polished, but thankfully devoid of Nashville’s more overwrought crossover sounds. The drums provide accompaniment and rhythm, rather than booming bottom end, and the guitars, dobros and fiddle all twang freely. The album opens with “Josephine,” a moving letter home from an embattled, frightened and remorseful Civil War soldier. The first-person lyrics run down dire circumstances, and leave the writer clinging to the hope that he’ll one day see his loved ones at home. Joey sends her own letter home in “When I’m Gone,” but this time from an anticipated afterlife to those left behind.
There’s lighter fare, including the rockabilly-tinged “Let’s Pretend We Never Met” and the Randy Newman-esque “Someday When I Grow Up.” Rory’s songwriting regularly touch on bittersweet family scenes and matters of the heart, but some listeners will hear sour notes in his reminiscence of corporal punishment, and the idea that the world would be improved by its widespread return. The convolution of religion, discipline and Abrahamic fear (“’cause one had my daddy’s name on it, the other said King James / With love they taught us lessons, but we feared them both the same”) is already creating debate among listeners; but whether you read it as loving discipline or child abuse, it feels out of place next to the album’s other eleven songs.