Some fans of the more traditional side of country music praise the early material of Toby Keith, Sara Evans and even Tim McGraw for sounding less "pop" than those artists' later hits. After revisiting Faith Hill's 1993 debut, Take Me as I Am, the future "Breathe" and "This Kiss" hitmaker definitely belongs on that list: She came right out the gate with one of the decade's best roots-bound releases by a mainstream star.
For a refresher on Hill's introduction to the mainstream, check out how The Boot ranks all 10 songs off Take Me as I Am. It might just force pop-country haters and fans of Hill's hits alike to reconsider her talents as a traditional country storyteller:
This gorgeous deep cut, co-written by Kathy Mattea's husband and collaborator Jon Vezner, reminds us once again that a common strong suit among ‘90s country stars, including Hill and future partner Tim McGraw, is their ability go wring every bit of emotion out of a breakup song.
There’s quite the perception gap between wide-eyed Mississippi native Hill and a counter-culture icon, rock god and all-around hellraiser like Janis Joplin. That didn’t stop Hill from cutting an interpretation of “Piece of My Heart” that suits the big-budget twang-fest that was 1993 without disavowing what made a classic click.
Hill and her team try out a rocking, new vibe on this upbeat tune that predicts the mood and tone of future singles. She’s joined by a choir of backup singers featuring the late Lari White and another young recording artist named Victoria Shaw. The latter is better known now as one of the writers behind Garth Brooks’ “The River.”
“I Would Be Stronger Than That”
The final song on Take Me as I Am slows things down for the sort of vivid story song about an everyday woman fans associate with Reba McEntire's catalog.
“I’ve Got This Friend” (Feat. Larry Stewart)
Stewart, of Restless Heart, does a fine job helping Hill sing this gorgeous song. Of course, with 25 years of hindsight, it’s hard not to wonder if McGraw’s instant chemistry with Hill would’ve been in full effect had he been in the studio instead.
“Life’s Too Short to Love Like That”
Put on your boogie boots, because Hill added to the throwback line-dancing party with this fiery deep cut. The guitar work — likely by the great Dann Huff or Brent Mason — sounds more Honky-Tonk Tuesday than Lower Broadway.
The first song on Hill’s debut album follows Alabama's formula of capturing the contentment that flawed, failure-prone people discover through falling in love with other flawed, failure-prone people.
There’s no need to lament the great, pop-friendly music that followed for Hill, but this collaboration with dobro legend Jerry Douglas make her sound like a would-be Americana star.
Despite our earlier praise of the Hill-McGraw pairing that’d change the game in 1997, the first “voice” to really accentuate the sorrow in Hill’s emotive delivery came from the steel guitar of Paul Franklin, as heard on this classic single.
Although country music still spoke to an older audience back then, the protagonist in Hill’s original signature song represents every small-town teenager with a rebellious streak that made settling down, marrying young and embracing rural life seem way too boring.