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Faith Hill

Fireflies – 2005 (Warner)

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

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CDs by Faith Hill

Faith Hill stayed so far from her country roots with 2003's "Cries" that she laid an egg on country radio. The album was so pop that there was nothing for radio to play.

Hill did not make the same mistake twice as there is a significant amount of country instrumentation starting with the Dan Dugmore banjo and Stuart Duncan mandolin on the lead off "Sunshine and Summertime." The autobiographical and well delivered hit single, "Mississippi Girl," written in part by John Rich, who had a hand in 3 of the 14 songs, is about as country as Hill gets.

Hill doesn't shy away totally from her pop leanings. "The Lucky One," mainly courtesy of the Warren Brothers, has more of a pop sheen though mandolin is present. Heretofore, Hill probably would have opted for more of a guitar approach sonically, but the guitars are toned down with Dobro, mandolin and steel much more prominent throughout.

Hill generally is in good vocal form, although her take on Lori McKenna's "If You Ask" is a bit flat. She turns it up a notch on Darrell Scott's social/political commentary "We've Got Nothing But Love To Prove," which works except for the bridge where Hill comes up short. But Hill closes strong with a tender reading of the ballad "Paris."

Hill hasn't gone hard core country by any means, but at least she's heading back in the direction from whence she came.