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Joey + Rory

The Life of a Song – 2008 (Sugar Hill)

Reviewed by John Lupton

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CDs by Joey + Rory

After raising more than a few eyebrows on CMT's Can You Duet with a sound and style that echoes and resonates of the best of '60s-vintage country from the likes of Dolly Parton, Connie Smith and Jean Shepard, Joey Martin and her husband Rory Feek debut with a dozen tracks (most of which they had a hand in writing) that will delight anyone who's still retro enough to think that when it comes to country, the only electric guitar you need is a pedal steel. Martin's voice, silky yet at the same time smoky, is made for acoustic instruments, and when the supporting cast includes the likes of Bryan Sutton and Rob Ickes, the result is one of the best freshman efforts to come along in quite a while.

The opener Play The Song is pure attitude - don't worry about labels or formats, just "shut up and sing," and this hard-edged honesty carries all the way through tunes like Cheater Cheater (which turns Parton's Jolene upside down) and Tune Of A Twenty Dollar Bill. Heart Of The Wood is a touching ballad, sparely produced by Carl Jackson, of turning hardwood into a family homestead. And, maybe most surprisingly, their version of Skynyrd's Free Bird gets to the heart of what a good song it actually is.