Prime Cuts: Salvation, Small Talk Café, Whatcha Gonna Do with That Broken Heart
Overall Grade: 5/5
Though one of the songs on this record may be entitled "Time Machine," the whole album is a time machine. These 14 newly recorded songs transport us back to a time when words are binding, when gentility is the expression of the society, and when the idyllic is the scene of life. They also bring us back to a time in country music where songs encapsulate a substantial moral or spiritual message rather frivolous music trying to follow a beat. Gentle Man is Feek's first album since the death of his wife Joey Feek, the other half of Joey + Feek. And this record is Feek's album since Joey + Feek's #1 Christian and country album Hymn That Are important to Us in 2005.
Even though the list of guests who get to play or sing on the record (Dolly Parton, Lee Ann Womack, Vince Gill, Alison Krauss, Ricky Skaggs among others) is staggering, they do not steal the show from Feek. Whether Feek is singing a Bob Dylan or a Collin Raye or a Trisha Yearwood cover, he still sings as if he inhabits each song telling these narratives as though they are his own personal stories. "Met Him in a Motel Room," being a prime example. Initially, recorded by Trisha Yeawood on her Prize-Fighter album, Feek delivers a heartfelt narrative about how dishevelled man finds Christ via a Gideon's Bible in a motel room.
If you love story songs with a powerful inspirational message, don't miss "Salvation" or "Small Talk Café." The intricate attention paid to the narrative's details makes the characters come alive. And you can't help but identify with the dejected traveller in "Salvation" or feel like you are part of the conversation in "Small Town Café." If you love country music for its old-fashioned songs of heartbreak, you won't be disappointed with "Me and the Blues" (which Feek co-wrote with Max D. Barnes) or the ultra-catchy "Whatcha Gonna Do with that Broken Heart."
Though Joey Feek has been with Jesus for almost 5 years, she's never gone from her hubby's heart. Such endearing sentiments can be felt in the tear-jerking acoustic sounding "Time Won't Tell" (listen for Alison Krauss' haunting harmonies) and the autobiographical "One Angel" (which also features Dolly Parton's gorgeous vocals). The title track "Gentle Man" best sums up Feek's own philosophy and the tenure of this record. Feek isn't a man of today's electronic age where every thrill is in a click of the cell-phone or every heartbreak is confined to a single video on YouTube. Rather, he is truly a "gentle man" who hurts, thinks, remembers, and loves deeply. You can bet that such qualities shine right through these songs.