It's tough to enjoy Joey Feek's "If Not for You" album because not a lot of time has passed since she died. The album was recorded in 2005, before Joey + Rory (the duo she formed with her husband) became a commercial and artistic success story. It's also an album you can easily love if you are a fan of Joey + Rory's music or even if you're not - yet.
The album even includes a solo version of "That's Important to Me," which became one of the duo's signature songs. On it and the whole album, Feek shines as a vocalist. She had one of those voices that clearly expressed sincerity. When she sings about the things most important to her during "That's Important to Me," you naturally believe her. "When the Needle Hit the Vinyl" is an upbeat track that both praises great old country records, as well as the way music brought out the overt love between a husband and wife (in the form of watching mom and dad dance). The song bops along nicely, with the sort of beat that is sure to induce immediate movement on the danc efloor. "The Cowboy's Mine," with its fiddle and banjo intro, is a fine traditional country song about romantic fidelity. "That lipstick on his collar may be yours/But make no mistake come closing time/The cowboy's mine."
The quality of these older recordings stings a bit, just knowing we won't have Feek around for a follow up. Feek closes with "Old Paint," which sways with an Old West musical vibe. With little more than acoustic guitar to support her, Feek's lovely voice on it is so sweet and pure. Feek was at the top of her game long before the wider world discovered her music. This album is a precious proof of that fact.