Joey + Rory – “Freebird”
Editor’s Note: “Freebird” was originally slated as Joey + Rory’s second single. It appears as though “Play the Song” will be released instead. This review was written prior to, and does not reflect, that change.
Despite a reality show past and ill-advised choices in punctuation, Joey + Rory have been a breath of fresh air for commercial country music–which makes the choice of “Freebird” as their next single puzzling at best and momentum-killing at worst. Let’s face it: the Skynyrd classic has been relegated to pop culture joke status, something jackasses request at concerts no matter the performer. When Joey Martin and Rory Lee Feek performed the song as a ballad on CMT’s Can You Duet, it made Naomi Judd wipe away tears as she begged the two to “never change.” I cried too, but for far different reasons.
“Freebird” is a bad cover in all the worst ways, from Joey Martin’s plodding delivery—as though a 45 was played at 33 RPM—to the soulless arrangement that, if you were listening to this on your daily commute, would make you want to drive off a bridge.
The most memorable element of the original is the way that it transforms from poignant piano ballad to facemelting triple guitar Southern rock song. Joey + Rory don’t even attempt to inject a similar amount of energy, passion, or uniqueness into their version, and the resulting sound is something that might play on your town’s soft rock radio station in between Celine Dion and Bryan Adams.
As anyone who has listened to The Life of a Song or watched the couple perform on Can You Duet can attest, Joey + Rory are a knockout combination of talent and charisma. But “Freebird” is a step in the wrong direction, especially after “Cheater Cheater” failed to garner a significant amount of radio airplay and hasn’t risen above #30 on the charts. If Sugar Hill doesn’t wise up a bit when it comes to releasing singles, Joey + Rory may be soon relegated to the cutout bin along with most of the other reality television musicians not named Carrie Underwood.
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