Joey + Rory, "Hymns That Are Important To Us" (Farm House/Spring House)
Joey Martin, of the wife-and-husband duo Joey + Rory, opens the couple's gospel album with an a cappella rendering of the first two verses of "Precious Lord, Take My Hand."
When her liquid alto intones "I am tired, I am weak, I am worn," the starkness of those beautifully rendered lines will be all the more powerful for those who know Martin is in hospice care with cervical cancer.
The couple recorded "Hymns" last fall, after Martin discovered her prognosis was terminal. Throughout, her voice maintains its full, burnished tone; although she rarely flashes the vocal strength that once came naturally to her, the intimate tone fits the setting.
The 13 songs lean on standards: "I'll Fly Away" finds Martin at her most spirited; "Softly And Tenderly" is surprisingly robust; and a jazzy, bass-led "Old Rugged Cross" is the standout track. The duo also includes a 2010 recording, "When I'm Gone," which contrasts the agony of losing a loved one with the beauty of the world that remains.
"Hymns" speaks to life's virtues, to Christian values, and to how music soothes and uplifts. It's a touching parting gift from a woman known for her generosity and humility.