Nice try, Faith, but go back to the studio

Celine wannabe Faith Hill
Faith Hill “Cry” (Warner Bros. Nashville)
Memo to Warner Bros. Nashville Records: Thanks for the advance of the new Faith Hill album. You must be looking for some feedback before signing off on it, right? I can understand why. Faith’s last album sold 8 million copies, but someone needs to talk to her about this record. “Cry” is so filled with vocal histrionics that it borders on the unlistenable.
No one should blame Faith for not wanting to be Loretta Lynn and Tammy Wynette. But why did she want to be Celine Dion? There are brilliant singers — Emmylou Harris, Shelby Lynne and Alison Krauss — who have moved beyond traditional country without sacrificing their soulful edge.
With regard to “Cry,” you should start by scrapping tracks 3, 5, 6, 7, 10, 12 and 13. The songs (mostly overwrought power ballads) are mediocre, her vocals are rarely convincing, and the arrangements are ham-fisted. The material is promising enough elsewhere to salvage the tracks by bringing in some advisors. Alanis Morissette could help Faith and the band convey some true romantic fury in the title tune; Lucinda Williams could suggest ways to achieve the lonely barroom ache needed in “When the Lights Go Down”; and Beck could show the way to the vulnerability aimed for in “Stronger.”
Or maybe you could just have Faith and her team go back into the studio and simply study the album’s one truly outstanding track: “You’re Still Here,” a tender, intimate reflection on how someone’s spirit stays with you even after the person passes out of your life. Faith sings it with touching restraint that makes the rest of the album seem all the more jarring.
You do have time to rethink this album, right? What’s that? It’s coming out Tuesday? Oh my. — Robert Hilburn