Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Can They Duet?

Joey and Rory

Men, a question for y’all: why do you wear overalls? 

Is it that the lack of a waistband allows you to develop your beer gut in secret? Or that the bagginess can accommodate enormous boxer shorts? Does the bib serve to protect your shirt from BBQ sauce or hide embarrassing manboobs? Is it because you work on a farm and there ain’t nobody going to see you all day long except hogs? Is it the extra space for pockets? Are you in investor in denim manufacturing? Do you have a fetish for hooks, clasps and rivets? Were you born in 1876? Are you Uncle Jesse?

Let’s face it: unless you are six years old, or lean, tanned and naked underneath, overalls are a fashion faux pas. In country music, you can generally get away with a kind of wardrobe that works in context: the cowboy hat; the cowboy shirt; Wranglers; dusters; even a Nudie suit on occasion. But overalls is sort of rubbing it in. Wearing overalls on stage seems like a gimmick — “look at me! I just came from the farm!” — that is amusing until you hit it big, at which point you (or your label) springs for a personal stylist and some new duds. If you insist on wearing your overalls at every public appearance you ever make, including actual awards shows at which the women wear gowns — then you are the one who is a dud.

Which obviously means I have to draw attention to Joey Feek, he of Joey and Rory fame, the duo who placed third in the short-lived CMT audition-reality show Can You Duet? in 2008. All of those other contestants, including the winners, were never heard from again, but Joey and Rory, the husband and wife team, have hit it big by dint of their actual talent. This has given Joey a chance to show us that he can adapt to the spotlight by switching it up a little in the trouser department, but no; the man truly does not own anything other than overalls (in every shade, including black for the occasional black-tie event). He also wears a short-back-and-sides with slight quiff straight out of the 1940s, which gives him an anachronistic look at odds with his very hot wife. Sadly for her, she usually doesn’t get to don a pretty frock like the rest of the girls for the party, because she has to match her hubby by turning out in  equestrienne gear: shirt, boots, belt, boots. And when she does look purdy ... Dude. Come on.

Honestly, I thought Joey and Rory were a joke when I first saw them. I figured he was in costume. I was wrong.

If you check out their “audition” tape, you’ll get a good idea of their schtick. In one of the two videos they currently have playing (“That’s Important To Me,” and their Christmas song), we see Joey dutifully baking bread in her kitchen. I thought this was a bit of poetic license too (oh purleese….) but guess what? She is (was?) an actual baker in her own actual restaurant. It’s all a bit sweet and syrupy, but I do like listening to good songwriting and people who can sing effortlessly, and these two do make a pleasant sound. As Naomi Judd said (in her role as judge on Can You Duet?), “I believe everything about you.” And this, coming from a woman who bears more of a resemblance to a shop mannequin than a human being! If you can get past Rory’s unfortunate choice of pants, you’ll find gems like “Cheater, Cheater,” sporting the catchy refrain “you no good white-trash whore,” which is worth the listen alone. 

Do we need more aw-shucks cute-as-a-button duos? Probably not. But country music has a rich tradition of husband and wife teams, and though they are no George and Tammy, no Tim and Faith, no Garth and Trisha, no Blake and Miranda, and certainly no Johnny and June, it's good to have fresh blood in the stable. Personally, I'm kind of happy to see Rory look a bit like deer in headlights up on the big stage, or adopting the demeanor of a table-side mariachi player, guitar held high up on his chest. It distracts me from wondering if perhaps there's some sort of strange abdominal problem responsible for his sartorial oddity. 

Rory is in fact a well-practiced songwriter whose compositions have been big hits for other acts. His "Some Beach" was a number one for Blake Shelton. It's funny.

Overall? It ain’t about the clothes, it’s about the music, and these guys remind you of that every time you see them and go “WTF?” Close your eyes. Open your ears. 

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