Christian bluegrass artist Bradley Walker has shared how the faith of Rory Feek and his late wife, Joey, influenced his music and demonstrated to him that God can use even the most devastating of circumstances for good.
During a recent interview with Rolling Stone, Walker, who was born with muscular dystrophy and has spent most of his life in a wheelchair, revealed he met the Christian music duo known as Joey + Rory back in 2007.
"They had heard my album and loved it," he recalled. "I got a friend request from Joey one night on MySpace, and just fell in love with her voice and then met them not long after that and fell in love with her as a person."
"I could hardly take it," Walker told the outlet. "Rory called me that night they were on their way back to Tennessee, and asked me to sing. There's only one answer: 'Of course I'll sing.' For him to pick the phone up and call me and for her to want me to sing, there's no greater honor for a singer than to be able to do that for somebody."
After hearing Walker sing Joey's favorite hymn, "Leave it There," at her graveside service at the couple's Tennessee Farm, Southern gospel legend Bill Gaither and his wife Gloria signed him a record deal. Nearly a year after Joey's death, Rory and Walker remain close friends. In fact, Rory produced Walker's recently-released album, Call Me Old-Fashioned, which includes a posthumous duet with Joey on "In the Time That You Gave Me."
"You never know how God can take a devastating, terrible situation and bring a blessing out of it," Walker said. "Joey has blessed so many people with her story and the way she lived her life right up until the very end. I feel like she's upstairs looking down on all of this smiling."
He added, "To be able to record that with Joey's voice, it was very hard to get through that when we tracked it in the studio...It's tough to listen to, but it's such an honor for me and not only just to have a song on here with Joey, but to have that song. It's special."
The up-and-coming artist added that his faith has allowed him to press on and achieve success despite his physical disabilities, and said he hopes his album serves as a reminder of God's faithfulness.
"I think of this as a gospel record for people who don't go to church," he said. "I hope this can be an inspiration not only to people who are saved and who are in church -because I believe that's where we all need to be, but I want to reach people also who aren't in church and get them thinking about life. These are songs about real life."
During their musical career, Joey+Rory recorded eight studio albums and charted three singles on Hot Country Songs. In February, the couple released their final album, Hymns That Are Important to Us, which Joey called "God's record." The album soared to the top of Billboard's Contemporary Christian Album and Christian Video charts.