Lithe-voiced and lively, Hill, 26, is a Mississippian who learned to sing belling hymns in a Baptist church. On this debut album, she sounds most comfortable on more formally arranged tunes. Her ill-advised resurrection of the Janis Joplin hit "Piece of My Heart," for instance, is stiff and soulless. A blues singer, Hill isn't.
Yet despite those limitations and the fact that she generally avoids the traditional woman-as-victim stance of female country singers—see the stridently politically correct album title and such songs as "I Would Be Stronger than That"—she is most entertaining on this album's rougher-sounding upbeat tracks, such as Sandy Ramos's "Life's Too Short to Live Like That" and "Go the Distance." She also more than does justice to such throwback lovelorn ballads as "Just Around the Eyes" and "Just About Now."
While it would be fun to hear Hill sing accompanied only by a good piano or guitar, this album is bolstered by such reliably musical sidemen as keyboardist John Jarvis and guitarist Don Potter, as well as backup singers Karen Staley, Gary Burr, Lari White, Pam Rose and Mary Ann Kennedy. It is as enjoyable and promising a debut album as anything since Patty Loveless's 1988 rookie effort, If My Heart Had Windows. (Warner Bros.)