After stretching her Nashville credibility until it went pop with 2002’s Cry, Faith Hill aims to reestablish her country bona fides on her sixth studio album. Not that Hill should care — everything she’s touched for more than a decade has gone multiplatinum, thanks to a voice plush enough to rival songbirds like Mariah Carey and pliant enough to tackle everything from gospel to bubblegum.
On Fireflies, she pumps up the country signifiers, with arrangements ornamented by pedal steel, fiddle, and mandolin. The sole ringer (”Paris”) is a torch ballad, the nadir a flag waver (”We’ve Got Nothing but Love to Prove”). Otherwise, Hill protests that she’s just a ”Mississippi Girl” who ”ain’t bigheaded from a little bit of fame.” She also ratchets up the twang in a parade of hillbilly parodies: the hoedown ”Dearly Beloved,” the tear-in-your-martini ”I Ain’t Gonna Take It Anymore” and the slow-burn duet with hubby Tim McGraw, ”Like We Never Loved at All.”
Alterna-folkie Lori McKenna’s contributions save Hill from schlock overdose. McKenna’s ”Stealing Kisses,” ”Fireflies,” and ”If You Ask” may not meet anyone’s standard for honky-tonk, but they’re the kind of emotionally nuanced songs Hill should seek out more often.