CATEGORY Traditional gospel album of the year.
WORLDVIEW That if the spirit is willing, weak flesh needn't be a hindrance.
OVERALL QUALITY Unobtrusive modernization meets boldly eclectic song selection, but with Clarence Fountain down to two lead vocals, one can't help fearing that at 76, age may have finally begun to catch up with him (as it did with George Scott, who died one week before this album's release).
CATEGORY Rock album of the year.
WORLDVIEW "Just listen to the politician wishing his position wasn't missing everything his heart would like to say" ("The Only Thing Worse Than Beating a Dead Horse Is Betting on One").
OVERALL QUALITY So good that one wishes it were better-especially that the abrupt rhythm and volume shifts didn't make it hard to appreciate the worthy lyrics and melodies without getting whiplash.
CATEGORY Southern gospel album of the year.
WORLDVIEW "The common thread that is woven into the music . . . of the Oak Ridge Boys is Gospel music. Common Thread combines hymns, Oak Ridge Boys' Gospel hits, Country Gospel hits, Bluegrass Gospel and four new songs. We hope we have woven a tapestry that will touch your soul" (the notes).
OVERALL QUALITY As solid and traditional as furniture made of, well, oak.
CATEGORY Country album of the year.
WORLDVIEW "Most of all, I thank God for the favor of his blessings. Especially the blessing he gave me in my wife. Someone to love and the driving force behind all we do" (the notes).
OVERALL QUALITY Subtitled "Songs of Faith, Worship, and Praise" and advertised as the "follow-up to 2003's Worship and Faith," this traditional country-gospel album makes edification look (and sound) easy.
CATEGORY Pop contemporary album of the year.
WORLDVIEW "I've had Eve's eyes / of jealousy and shame / and Adam's disposition / to worry and to blame. / But I've had days when / I found more in me, / forgiveness and mercy, / and I was truly free. / I know . . . that's who I am" ("Child of Eden").
OVERALL QUALITY Strong production, writing, playing, and singing aimed at outdoing the Kelly Clarksons of the world.
Although Marty Stuart and His Fabulous Superlatives' Soul's Chapel (Universal South/Superlatone) has been nominated by the GMA for "country album of the year," one needn't love country or gospel music so much as the mid-1950s rock 'n' roll sound of Sam Phillips' Sun Records to love it. The Sun sound is apparently what inspired Mr. Stuart, as it suffuses nearly every song, albeit polished to an audiophile sheen in keeping with 21st-century technology.
Of course, Sun also incorporated Southern black music, so it's no surprise that, besides the inclusion of two Pops Staples songs and Steve Cropper and William Bell's "Slow Train," Mr. Stuart's guitarist Kenny Vaughn co-opts whole the hook of Big Joe Williams' blues classic "Baby, Please Don't Go" for the Marty Stuart-Harry Stinson original "Way Down." The luminous instrumental title track, on the other hand, suggests the influence of Hank Marvin, who as the preeminent atmospheric pop guitarist of the last 50 years is something of a "superlative" himself.