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Pop Music Review

Faith Hill Is Just Preaching to the Converted

November 03, 1998|STEVE APPLEFORD

Country singer Faith Hill's music is more torch than twang, aimed squarely at the middle of the road. She's comfortable there, performing smooth romantic balladry with an approach that is usually too slick to ever cut very deep.

Which is a shame. At the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza on Sunday, Hill demonstrated enough energy and vocal chops to tackle a broad range of musical possibilities, if she only would try. Hill's flair for subtle drama would also be better served by a band less reliant on icy, synthetic keyboards, and able to offer more than pleasant background to her voice.

Not that this formula has hurt her popularity. Hill's albums sell in the millions, and adoring fans presented the singer bouquets and other gifts on Sunday. But it's not the way to musical immortality, nor the way to find her own distinct voice. Hill was not overly flashy--a graceful, neighborly presence in short platinum hair and high-heeled boots. Some newer material also showed promise: She sat on a stool while singing of small pleasures during "The Secret of Life" and imagined losing her husband in "My Wild Frontier."

Her version of Rod Stewart's "Stay With Me" could have used the Faces' old recklessness (and volume), but the song added some welcome punch to the set. The choice was a surprising, positive sign from a singer who's still only a little bit country, even less rock 'n' roll.

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