Faith Hill recently gave fans the best Christmas gift of all: brand new music! Packaged as Deep Tracks, which includes the singer’s absolute favorite previously released non-single tunes, the 13-track disc also contains three new songs, “Come to Jesus,” “Boy” and husband Tim McGraw’s personal favorite “Why.” While a full-length of all-original music remains elusive, the new LP will at least quench a little bit of that thirst. To celebrate, One Country took a spin of our own down memory lane–revisiting her catalog, including her 1993 debut album Take Me As I Am and her pop crossover bid, 2002’s Cry— to collect our personal favorite gemstones.
10 Best Deep Cuts From Faith Hill:
“Stronger” (from 2002’s Cry)
Hill is one of the best balladeers to rise out of the late-90s pop resurgence. Alongside Shania Twain, Martina McBride and Sara Evans, Hill cemented herself as a mighty sales force, not only in the country market but later when she played across genre lines. This fine cut translates extremely well in the live setting, and the softer arrangement, sans blustering guitar solo, allows her to really soar to new heights.
“Dearly Beloved” (from 2005’s Fireflies)
Drawing on considerable honky-tonk influences, she doesn’t hold anything back. Her delivery is appropriately cheeky, as she proclaims “the bride is a flirt, and the groom is worse. As he’s putting the ring on her, he’s checking out the bride’s maids, thinkin’ that he might take the maid of honor’s honor.” It’s not your mama’s kind of love story, that’s for sure.
“A Man’s Home is His Castle” (from 1995’s It Matters to Me)
Two years after Martina McBride boldly broached the subject of spousal abuse on radio, Hill delivered a similar story, one of the most overlooked songs in country history. Unlike McBride’s gripping narrative, “Castle” is a downtempo, sorrowful ballad, framed around one guy’s ignorance of the world. “He will never see the way he treats me is a crime,” she wails. Instead of resorting to a fiery blaze to do the deed, she intends on buying a guy; the story’s resolution is left pretty vague, but the fight in her voice points to Jimmy’s life.
“Better Days” (from 1998’s Faith)
What is especially significant is the depth of Hill’s catalog. While she can certainly offer up a powerful story-song or a roaring ballad with the best of them, there are moments when you just need a pep talk. Here, she nudges every underdog, every downtrodden loner to see the silver lining peaking out from the storm brewing overhead. “I know you feel like the whole world’s gone and let you down but better days they’re comin’ for you,” she attests.
“There Will Come a Day” (from 1999’s Breathe)
Off the success of “This Kiss” and “Secret of Life” (from her previous studio album, Faith), the superstar began her slow, calculated transition to the pop world. This album bookend is brooding, rhythmically tapping into an R&B-tilt, without compromising that haunting piano underpinning (which really makes the song a sturdy one, aside from Hill’s conviction). The religious base of the song (supported later on with the choir backing) allowed it to appeal to quite a diverse audience, a smart move on her part.
“Keep Walkin’ On,” featuring Shelby Lynne (from 1995’s It Matters to Me)
Speaking of a choir and gospel music, Hill takes us to church with this barn-burner. Enlisting the vocal power of Lynne contributed to the push-and-pull of the galloping melody; of course, Hill doesn’t hold anything back when it comes to one of her best, most-explosive vocals to-date. There is a richness and color in both their voices which would make Aretha Franklin faint.
“Just About Now” (from 1993’s Take Me As I Am)
In one of her softer performances, Hill relies heavily on the lyrics to direct her emotion. She trades in bombast for simplicity, leaving the story to slowing simmer and boil over when the time was right. Coming off her breakout hit “Wild One” on the track list, “Now” would showcase her willingness to be vulnerable and take risks.
“Bringing Out the Elvis” (from 1999’s Breathe)
Hill whips out her sass for one of the bluesiest and catchiest Top 40-friendly tracks she’s ever recorded. It’s far more “Man! I Feel Like a Woman” fire-rock (packed with sizzling harmonica and relentless quaking guitar) than straight pop-country. It’s certainly her most genre-bending of her songbook (perhaps, significantly ahead of its time), and she pulls off each metaphorical hair-flick with panache and style.
“If You Ask” (from 2005’s Fireflies)
A decidedly more roots-driven song than what Hill had done in a number of years (and a solo Lori McKenna write, to boot!), the singer inhabits the sense of longing and ache the song rightly deserves. It’s a tender reading of a classic country theme, with a moodiness glowing behind her. The smartness of the lyric gives Hill plenty to chew on, and our only hope is she returns with more McKenna writes on her new record.
“I Would Be Stronger Than That” (from 1993’s Take Me As I Am)
A poignant examination of decaying love, the ballad gives Hill permission to flex her chops in immeasurable ways. When a friend confides in her of her own pain and sorrow in a marriage which has turned toxic and bitter, the narrator puts herself in those well-worn shoes and considers what she would do in a similar circumstance. “Where’s her head? Where’s her nerve? Does part of her think this is all she deserves? Oh, I would be stronger. I would not stay one minute longer?” she surmises.