CATEGORY Best Rock Album.
WORLDVIEW That loving reality (relatives, old guitars, Elvis) beats following dreams, as dreams are sometimes nightmares and usually illusory.
OVERALL QUALITY Like his peers Bob Dylan and Van Morrison, Mr. Young alternates between really good, age-defying albums and embarrassing testimonies to premature senility; this insightful and predominantly acoustic recording, with the exception of the anachronistically hippie-dippy "When God Made Me," is one of the former.
CATEGORY Best Southern, Country, or Bluegrass Gospel Album.
WORLDVIEW "Yes, we have a great career singing country music, and we're truly thankful. But we are now, and always will be gospel singers at heart. It should be said that the Lord Jesus Christ was our first hero" (the liner notes).
OVERALL QUALITY The enthusiasm and luminosity of the Gatlins' three-part harmonies rescue these Baptist-hymnal standards from the Slough of Overfamiliarity.
CATEGORY Best Contemporary Folk Album.
CAUTION "Some Humans Ain't Human" (scatological vulgarities).
WORLDVIEW "You might go to church / and sit down in a pew. / Those humans who ain't human / could be sitting right next to you."
OVERALL QUALITY Mr. Prine is less surefire than his fellow middle-aged wiseacre Loudon Wainwright III, but surviving divorce and cancer has wisened him up, and he was hardly a fool to begin with.
CATEGORY Best Musical Album for Children.
WORLDVIEW That music for children needn't be patronizing, insufferably cute, or beyond the ability of their Gen-X parents to enjoy.
OVERALL QUALITY The cover of Ray Stevens' "Gitarzan" is as obvious as this very catchy album gets, with "Dance Around" and "Old Red #7" defying age categorization altogether; as for "I Don't Wanna," kids aren't the only humans who hate cleaning their rooms.
CATEGORY Best Musical Show Album.
CAUTION Intermittent PG-13 vulgarities.
WORLDVIEW "Life is quite absurd, / and death's the final word. / You must always face the curtain with a bow! / Forget about your sin-give the audience a grin. / Enjoy it-it's your last chance anyhow!"
OVERALL QUALITY Disappointing; whereas the songs in the original Python routines supported the comedy, here they try, but fail, to carry the show.
As honest liberals know, George W. Bush can't be both an effective liar and an idiot (effective lying requires brains), so one wishes that John Prine had opted for one criticism or the other in "Some Humans Ain't Human" (Fair and Square [Oh Boy]) instead of trying to have it both ways and thereby calling his own honesty and intelligence (and fairness and squareness) into question. As for the "girl in the white house" ("Taking a Walk") whose "disheveled appearance speaks volumes of shame," Mr. Prine's not capitalizing "white house" in the lyric booklet makes it unclear whether he means a Bush twin, Monica Lewinsky, or a merely generic symbol of depravity.
For the most part, however, Mr. Prine spends his 14th studio album of new material in 34 years avoiding partisanship, dishonesty, and idiocy altogether, preferring instead to wax lyrical, wise, and funny about such universal topics as hometowns, trains, the moon, and the glory of true love.