Faith Hill falls back on her country roots

New on CD

August 04, 2005|By Robert Hilburn | Robert Hilburn,LOS ANGELES TIMES

Forget Fireflies. Faith Hill should have titled her new album My Apology.

Almost everything about the compact disc feels like a reaction to the widespread complaints that her last collection, 2002's Cry, sacrificed country character in pursuit of pop crossover sales.

As this album shows, Hill did some serious soul-searching. She listened to hundreds of songs, and that paid off in at least six cases, including "Mississippi Girl," a get-back-to-my-roots exercise co-written by John Rich (of the hot duo Big & Rich) and Adam Schoenfeld.

No one is going to mistake the chorus for something Bob Dylan wrote, but it gets the point across to those she alienated:

And some people seem to think that I've changed / That I'm different than I was back then / But in my soul I know that I'm the same way / That I've really always been.

And the move has apparently worked. Country radio has embraced "Mississippi Girl" with the enthusiasm they showed for many of Hill's pre-Cry recordings.

But too much of the 14-track album is sabotaged by corny or cliched rhymes and images. The title tune, by Lori McKenna, is awash with mentions of "a fairy princess" and "frogs" called "Prince" and Peter Pan and miracles. Darrell Scott's socially conscious "We've Got Nothing but Love to Prove" aims at being a sort of country "Imagine," but Scott's clearly no Merle Haggard, much less John Lennon.

Hill should take a brief bow for rebounding from the hollow Cry, but she still has a long way to go to reflect the country character of Emmylou Harris, Alison Krauss, Lucinda Williams and the Dixie Chicks. If Hill wants to be an artist rather than just a star, a lot more soul-searching is in order.

The Los Angeles Times is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

Faith Hill

Fireflies (Warner Bros.) ** 1/2 (2 1/2 stars)

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