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Joey + Rory

Hymns That Are Important To Us – 2016 (Gaither Music Group)

Reviewed by Andrew Greenhalgh

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CDs by Joey + Rory

There have been many artists throughout the year who've tried their hand at offering up songs for the faithful, mining their past for the hymns of old. Yet. it's the rare few who've delivered the emotional punch that Joey + Rory manage. With Joey Feek battling the final stages of cancer and choosing to forego treatment, the couple took advantage of Joey's good days to head into the studio to craft this collection of time-honored hymns that resonates with deep emotion.

At simple face value, the album is a great listen. It's infused with the humble charm that the beloved duo has been known for, offering up their signature homespun country melodies alongside warm harmonies. Joey's vocals are rich and heartfelt, and she never tries to oversing, simply delivering the lyrics with a relaxed yet beautiful flow that lets the heart of the song shine. Accompanied by Rory's acoustic arrangements, the souls of these songs live on.

Put into the context of Feek's illness however, these songs take on even deeper meaning. As she sings lines like "I am tired, I'm weak, I am worn/Through the storm, through the night/Lead me on to the light/Take my hand, precious Lord/Lead me home" from "Take My Hand, Precious Lord" or "When peace, like a river, attendeth my way/When sorrows like sea billows roll/Whatever my lot/Thou hast taught me to say/It is well, it is well with my soul," from "It Is Well With My Soul," the lyrics speak of something further, something much richer. Joey's faith is front and center here and, while situations could easily lead her to a place of despair, through these songs she points to her source of light.

Songs like "I Need Thee Every Hour" and "The Old Rugged Cross" continue in this vein, the lyrics framed with Joey's honeyed vocals and Rory's simple arrangements while "Jesus Loves Me" and "I'll Fly Away" provide some added energy with flowing fiddles and toe-tapping beats. An old southern gospel staple, "Suppertime," sets the table with its poignant lyric and haunting performance while album closer, a re-release of the couple's hit song "When I'm Gone," dares listeners to close out the experience with dry eyes.

Taken on its own, "Hymns That Are Important To Us" is an album worth listening to, filled with the unpretentious, honest music that Joey + Rory have come to be known for over the years. Yet, when drawn into the light of the Feeks' current journey, the record delivers even more, offering up a rare, beautiful look into the heart of a faithful follower prepared to meet her Savior. It's a bittersweet but beautiful journey that bears listening to.