Gill Gets Strength in Country Tradition : *** VINCE GILL; "When Love Finds You" (MCA )

Vince Gill's work on up-tempo tunes is like a baseball pitcher's batting average--it can be nice, but it's totally beside the point.

Gill is all about ballads, and he knows it--with eight of its 11 songs on the slow side, his fourth album is even more weighted toward that genre than last year's "I Still Believe in You," which had a ballad average of .600 (6 for 10).

None of these, however, matches the exquisiteness of that album's title song or 1992's "Look at Us," two of the most transcendent expressions of devotion ever recorded. Gill's high, angelic voice and artistic intelligence can elevate mediocre material, but such middlebrow pop fare as "When Love Finds You" and "If There's Anything I Can Do" doesn't really tax his interpretive powers.

The closer Gill moves to hard-core country tradition--as on "Which Bridge to Cross (Which Bridge to Burn)" and the remorseful lament "Real Lady's Man"--the stronger he becomes. The climactic "Go Rest High on That Mountain," a valediction for his deceased brother, combines '90s pop sumptuousness with the purity of mountain church music, tapping a personal urgency rare in country music these days.

New albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor) to four (excellent).

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