Faith Hill
(Warner Bros. 46790)

Bought on the strength of the great, cheesy, single "This Kiss," following a conversation with fellow Loud Bassoon staffer AAA on the potential merits of 90s country albums, Faith Hill's Faith turns out to be a pretty solid album.

Country has always been a singles-dominated genre, with albums being essentially prop-ups for towering songs. Lately, it seems that more and more artists are relying on clever wordplay of the "Cleopatra, Queen of Denial" variety, which can work, but you can't picture it spread over an entire album.

Faith is less akin to the country "albums" of the past and more like pop albums of the present, featuring an assortment of similar-sounding songs with enough variety to keep you interested (clever opener, touching follow-up, love ballad, philosophical introspection, another ballad, rocker, etc).

It's obviously music created on a corporate desk rather than in a charming little studio, but it's still good pop.

Everyone cries about how Nashville has become as much of a cookie-cutter industry as a lot of R&B and teen-beat pop has become, and I'm not sure I could sit through all that many albums like this one, but it's really a surprisingly enjoyable record.

I mean, given the choice between Faith Hill and Bryan Adams or Michael Bolton, I'd have to go with Faith, because the days of sandpaper soul are done and gone, brother. Faith chooses her material wisely, covering songs by Beth Nielsen Chapman, Matraca Berg, Gretchen Peters, Sheryl Crow, and Aldo Nova (no, really, there's an Aldo Nova song on here), plus the unavoidable Dianne Warren safety-net ("Just to Hear You Say That You Love Me," a duet with Faith's husband Tim McGraw, who as I recall is also the nephew or son of baseball great Tug McGraw, and who is responsible for one of the worst songs ever, "Indian Outlaw," in case I haven't packed enough unrelated asides into one sentence).

Best cuts are "This Kiss," "You Give Me Love," "Me," and "Love Ain't Like That." No truly bad songs, although "The Hard Way" gets into a "The Thunder Rolls" sort of mode that I just can't get into. It's not that I don't think country should rock, but just that it always ends up sounding like a bar band when it does.

Definitely an album-of-the-moment, Faith will gradually recede from its current infrequent-but-not-nonexistent appearance in my active rotation to a position on the shelf, and finally in the sell-back pile. But it wasn't a disappointment (as I expected it to be) and the mood occasionally calls for some turn-the-old-brain-off 90s country pop.

If you're considering buying this one, the ideal price is something like $8, but buy it only with the acknowledgement that you fully expect selling it back within the year.

Review by Lara Listerine