Contemporary Christian Music Watch
By Jim Galipeau

As I sit down to write, the Dove Awards are just one week away. Hosting this year's Awards Show on the Family Channel is former Country Music Association Entertainer of the Year, Barbara Mandrell. This is the first time Mandrell has hosted the show and she's slated to perform, along with Amy Grant, Sandi Patti, Steven Curtis Chapman, Michael English, 4 Him, White Heart and Michael W. Smith. It looks to me like this year's big winners will be Cindy Morgan, Steven Curtis Chapman and Michael English.

There were a few repeat winners at this year's Grammy Awards in February. Shirley Ceasar took home her sixth Grammy, for Best Traditional Soul Gospel Album. For Steven Curtis Chapman, it was his second Grammy in a row, for Best Pop Gospel Album for The Great Adventure. Bruce Carroll received his second Grammy, for Sometimes Miracles Hide, in the Best Southern Gospel Album category. The Best Rock Contemporary Album Grammy was awarded to Petra for Unseen Power.

And just as I forecast, the winner of the Best Contemporary Soul Gospel Album was Handel's Messiah – A Soulful Celebration. The project was produced by Mervyn Warren and featured various artists. Finally, the Grammy for the Best Gospel Album by a Choir went to Edwin Hawkins Music and Arts Seminar Mass Choir – Recorded Live in Los Angeles.

New albums coming to Christian bookstores this April include Michael English's Hope, Billy and Sarah Gaines' with Love's the Key, and Once in a LifetimeBy David Meece. There are also some first-time releases from New Artist. Benson Music Group is excited about the self-titled release from Pam Thumb. Christian country artist Terri Lynn combines Christian and family-value songs in Inside a Tear on Intersound Christian Music.

While new releases pour out this spring like April showers on May flowers, other artists head to the studio. In fact, Bruce Carroll is finishing the vocals on his next Word release, produced by Brown Bannister and Tom Hemby. First Call is working on a new project that will reportedly bring the group back to their original three-part harmonies. Word artist Cindy Morgan is polishing up her new project, produced by Mark Hammond and slated for a July release.

DC Talk is teaming with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association this spring. The rappers have completed a promotional video to be used in Pittsburgh, Pa., and Columbus, Ohio, to encourage youth to be involved in Billy Graham Crusades coming to those cities.

Congratulations to Paul Overstreet for his fifth! Overstreet and his wife Julie are the proud parents of a girl, Julie Skye.

It's been a few months since I told you about the allegations leveled against Christian comedian Mike Warnke by Cornerstone magazine. The magazine alleged that Warnke had lied about his past involvement with the occult and that he misled the public with shady business practices and several moral failures. The Lexington (Ky.) Herald-Leader had also reported that Warnke Ministries had their tax-exempt status revoked by the IRS, due in part to high salaries paid to certain staff of the ministry. Several months after the release of these stories and the suspension of promotion by Word Records of Warnke product, Mike Warnke has released the findings of the "Council of Elders."

The five-member board, appointed by Warnke, met early this year to look at accusations against Warnke and to determine the future of Warnke Ministries. Warnke released a statement saying that he would submit to any disciplinary action and gave the board authority to release any information from their investigation, even if it was "painful, embarrassing or humiliating."

The Council of Elders said that the IRS did raise questions about Warnke Ministries' tax-exempt status, but there have been no charges of fraud against the ministry. The Council said that although there are conflicting reports about Mike's background, "there was testimony presented that validates involvement with the occult." The council also said that the Cornerstone article was less than fair in representing the truth and that there was some editorial bias in the reporting.

The council recommended that Warnke Ministries establish a board of directors and an advisory board of spiritual directors. They also advised that the ministry join the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability.

Warnke said that he stands by his testimony of former occult involvement. Warnke did confess to moral failures in his personal life and admitted to embellishing his stories in order to make them funny. The comedian says he is not joking when he asks for forgiveness from the Christian community. There's no response from Word Records, the company which distributes his comedy releases.

On a lighter note . . . I'll be back in April with a full report on the latest news and a complete look at Dove winners.

WJIE Pics

A Heart That Knows You Twila Paris

All Around the World Newsong

Closer Than A Friend Mylon LeFevre & Friends

He Watches Over You Sandi Patti & BeBe Winans

I Know Where I Stand Bruce Carroll

Peace of the Rock Gaither Vocal Band

Stumbling Block to a Stepping Stone David & the Giants

The Robe Wes King

There But For the Grace of God Go I Paul Overstreet

You Never Leave Me Lonely Bruce Carroll

The Robe (Reunion) - Wes King

By Steve Estes

Wes King continues to grow with his latest effort, The Robe. The thing that really seemed to spark this growth was the production hand of new producer Phil Naish.

The songs on this album speak to real-life issues such as reform in the church ("Martin Luther"), Christ's grace and love ("The Robe"), a son's love for his mother ("John"), and a tongue in cheek look at our society's unwillingness to accept responsibility for its actions ("Don't Blame It on Me").

With songs that move the body and soul, this is a sure winner.