Christian music may be saved. As I write this, I'm listening to the live 5-song EP from Burlap To Cashmere, Live At The Bitter End. I think I've touted these guys in every column now since Cornerstone '98, but just in case there might be some unenlightened soul who hasn't discovered this marvelous band yet, let me just say that for perhaps the very first time in Christian music, an original band exists in the CCM roster. Sure, CCM has a lot of great music, but one of my biggest criticisms of the genre has been that too often the industry looks for copycats of proven secular successes instead of innovative music that pushes the limits of what's already out there. Burlap To Cashmere is the biggest step CCM has ever made towards a completely unique musical sound. Mixing the best of folk, modern rock, Greek bazouki music, and driving world rhythms, this band is exceptional. Even better, this band is scheduled to play the Ichthus Festival in Wilmore, Kentucky, so y'all have a chance to see this band live -- which, according to all my friends who caught the band at Cornerstone last summer, is not to be missed. If you want to catch more hoopla on the band, check out the most recent issue of CCM which features an in-depth interview with the band.
Speaking of the Icthus Festival, it just seems to keep getting bigger and better! Besides BTC, this year's festival will host Polar Boy, Newsboys, Grits, Out of Eden, Rebecca St. James, Michael W. Smith. Clear, Bleach Smalltown Poets, Five Iron Frenzy, Charlie Peacock, Plumb, Big Tent Revival and the Supertones, just to give you a taste of the festivities. I'll give you full updates on the festival in next month's column, but plan now not to miss Kentucky's best Christian music show.
In industry news, there's been a whole lot of shakin' going on. First of all, the rumors are true, sadly: Amy Grant and her husband of sixteen years, Gary Chapman, are separating according to a press release issued by Blanton Harrell Entertainment. Even more sadly, Christian retailers and radio stations are still discussing whether or not to continue stocking and playing Grant's and Chapman's music, proving that many in the industry still have not grasped the concept of not shooting your wounded. The couple have asked for prayer during their difficult time, and this -- rather than a discussion on whether to add the pain of censure to their current pain -- seems the more Christian approach, I think.
Moving on to something a bit happier, the 41st Annual Grammy Awards have announced their nominees. Topping the list of Christian artists nominated was gospel sensation Kirk Franklin with five nominations. Franklin's song "Lean On Me" was nominated for Song of the Year, Best R&B Song of the Year, and Best R&B Performance By a Duo or Group with Vocal, and his newest release The Nu Nation Project, was nominated for Best Contemporary Soul Gospel Album and Best Engineered Album, Non-Classical. Also included in the Grammy nominees were DC Talk, Michael W. Smith, Carman (why, I'll never know), Point of Grace and Deniece Williams for Best Pop/Contemporary Gospel Album and Audio Adrenaline, Big Tent Revival, Ashley Cleveland, Petra and Sixpence None the Richer for Best Rock Gospel Album. Other CCM/Gospel nominees this year include the James Blackwood Quartet, The Light Crust Doughboys, The Cathedrals, Andy Griffith, Bill and Gloria Gaither, Yolanda Adams, Karen Clark-Sheard, Fred Hammond & Radical For Christ, CeCe Winans and the late, great O'Landa Draper and his choir, The Associates. As much as I am a fan of Ashley Cleveland winning any award she can get nominated for, I have to admit that this year I'm crossing my fingers for Sixpence None the Richer, whose song "Kiss Me" is getting airplay everywhere recently.
And while your band might not be up for a Grammy this year, it is time to get those band demos together to try to get booked at this year's Cornerstone Festival. The festival committee is accepting applications for their prestigious New Band Showcase until March 15. Check out the Cornerstone website for more details.
I heard a rumor that Mitch McVicker and the Kid Brothers will hit Lexington, Kentucky for a show on February 14. McVicker, as you might know, was a close friend of Rich's and survivor of the car crash that took Rich home so recently. McVicker was at Cornerstone last summer as well and I heard great things, so this show is definitely worth checking out. Call (785) 232-4189 for more details on this show.
Well, there's lots more stuff, but as usual I don't have the space or time to get it all out there. Until next month, get all the Burlap To Cashmere CDs you can, support your local music scene and keep the faith.