In 1993, when country’s Faith Hill hit the charts with the insouciant single ”Wild One,” she seemed, to quote the song, ”a woman-child in a state of grace.” Now, on IT MATTERS TO ME (Warner Bros.), a pop-oriented country album, Hill sounds so world-weary she might as well be her own mother.
And a calculating one, at that. While Hill’s hugely successful debut, Take Me as I Am, bounded out with the freshness of a candy striper, the new effort sometimes stoops to the kind of formula you would expect from someone who’s made so many albums, she’s run out of ideas. The first cut, ”Someone Else’s Dream,” moves the teenager of ”Wild One,” struggling to find out who she is, to a 27-year-old doing the same. And ”A Man’s Home Is His Castle” admirably calls attention to the problem of wife beating, but ”I Would Be Stronger Than That,” from her last album, did that too.
If it’s hard to find Faith Hill on this record, it isn’t tough to hear Reba McEntire. Not only does Hill appropriate her mentor’s social themes (the parent-child relationship in ”You Can’t Lose Me,” the neglected wife in ”I Can’t Do That Anymore”), but her phrasing, pacing, and vocal color are often eerily reminiscent of Oklahoma’s Finest. Taken as a whole, this is a well-wrought, tuneful, and socially aware offering. But it’s still sounding more like the best little album that Reba never made, rather than the best Faith Hill can do. B