When Joey + Rory formed for CMT's "Can You Duet," Joey Feek was going by her maiden name Joey Martin and had already recorded, but never released widely, a 2005 release called Strong Enough To Cry. That album is what you see here -- now titled as If Not For You -- now released a year after Joey Feek passed away. It's still as brilliant as it was back then. We had originally reviewed the project in 2008 but I cannot find the complete review [it was likely lost during site redesign, oops]. So, here we are revisiting the project but holding the physical copy in our hands for the first time. That copy is a sweet ZinePak edition with new artwork, extensive new liner notes from Rory Feek and the original lyrics and thank you’s from Strong Enough To Cry.
The album opens with Joey’s parents playing and singing “Have I Told You Lately” before it fades into the 2005 album’s original title track “Strong Enough To Cry.” The song is a honest statement of love where she finds the strength in her man’s ability to be vulnerable. This is a modern country classic. “That’s Important To Me” was revisited by Joey+Rory on Album Number Two and the one here is a little more raw and perhaps vulnerable vocally. In reality it’s not that different and the honesty here is pretty much Joey Feek to a T. It is who she is, how she lived and how she loved.
There are some tempo songs on here including “When The Needle Hits The Vinyl” and “The Cowboy’s Mine.” The former is a fun song about a happy relationship while the latter one showcases to any and all who will listen that her man is her’s and all others better step off. Juxtaposed with those is “Nothing To Remember,” a song which is basically about falling in love with Rory. It’s about chance encounters bringing one true love. It’s a beautiful string-filled ballad with the kind of romantic message we should all hope to be a part of. The title track, “If Not For You,” is paired nicely with “Nothing To Remember” in that it’s Joey’s love for Rory in song.
“Red” is vivid in that it details many of the memories I have of my first meeting with Joey+Rory in 2008 and is her and the life she wanted to and did live. “See You There” is a heartbreaking song about the tragic passing of Joey’s then teenage brother and how it impacted her and her life. It’s also a strong testament to her faith and belief that she would see her beloved brother again in the afterlife. The closer "Old Paint" is yet another piece of Joey Feek's life and personality in song. You can listen to that track here.
What’s especially interesting about these songs is that they tell stories that still fit within Joey’s worldview. This is an artist who knew who she was and who she wasn’t. The honest and sincere vocal delivery is a delight even 12 years after the record was recorded. This is a record that deserves a wide audience and one that I’ll be going back to whenever I need a soothing voice to heal broken parts of my soul.