Grace Notes
By Chris Crain

Toby McKeehan (going by the name "Toby Mac" these days) was the last member of dc Talk to release a solo album this year. Momentum came out on November 6 and went on to sell over 12,000 copies its first week out, making it the #1 album on Billboard Magazine's "Heatseekers" chart. Saleswise, that doesn't quite compare with the 100,000+ copies dc Talk's last all-new studio release Supernatural sold its first week out, but it's pretty good for a solo release. Not that it's all about sales anyway, I just thought you'd like to know. The album is all over the place musically, sounding like P.O.D. or Limp Bizkit one minute and Eminem the next. Momentum seems like a statement Toby wanted to make, or maybe he was just having fun. Either way, his old school rap influence is definitely in "full effect" and there's not much on the album that would get played on mainstream Christian radio.

But here's the cool part: He was in Louisville for the release of the new album. Toby, who is often considered the "brains" behind dc Talk, the biggest band in Christian music (besides P.O.D., who have had more mainstream success, and probably don't consider themselves part of the "Christian music" scene), could have been just about anywhere on November 6. But that day he spent part of the afternoon at WJIE-FM in Okolona and later headed over to The Wellspring Christian Book Center in St. Matthews. About 400 people showed up to get an autograph, a picture, and maybe even a hug. Yeah, Toby had `em screaming at the store that night. He seemed to take it in stride. He's probably used to it by now. Getting back to the album: if you like music by The Beastie Boys, or maybe Run-DMC, or Linkin Park, or maybe even dc Talk, check out Momentum.

In a move that surprised few, Raze has broken up. Following up on story from earlier this year, in April Raze canceled the Louisville date of their spring tour. The group had been scheduled to play a date with Tammy Trent, Aurora and others at Six Flags Kentucky Kingdom. Then, at the tour's opening night in Tulsa, lead singer Ja'Marc Davis was arrested. He was eventually charged with rape in connection with an underage Raze back-up singer. According to the CCM Update, on November 1 he pled guilty to "sex offenses" involving the girl. Greg Ham, President of Raze's record label, Forefront Records, said "Before we could announce our decision about the future of Raze at Forefront, they came to us with their decision to go their separate ways. We wish Ja'Marc, Donnie, Mizzie and Todd well and we pray God's blessing for their futures." Meanwhile, Davis is scheduled to be sentenced on the 13th of this month. More information to follow next month in LMN.

More bad news: Pamplin Records has closed. Parent company Pamplin Communications announced the decision last month. The label had struggled financially for years and will formally close at the end of this month. This will leave artists such as Natalie Grant, Sierra, Nikki Leonti, John Elefante and others without a label home. About 50 employees were laid off as well.

OK, enough negative news, it is December after all. Glad tidings and all that. Do you like listening to Christmas music around the holidays? The older I get, the more I do. It's like a constant reminder that this a special time of year. And the sweetest two words known to man: days off. Well if you enjoy listening to Christmas music there are some new releases in stores now. Stacie Orrico's Christmas Wish mixes some of the old (a Michael W. Smith-produced rendition of "White Christmas") and some of the new (the title track, which is Stacie in Britney mode). It may not be your favorite musical style, but the girl can sing and the production is excellent. Buy it for your little sister, she'll like it.

Also out, Newsong's The Christmas Shoes. Last year the group had a surprise hit with the title track, which is a bonus track of sorts on the group's latest studio release, Sheltering Tree. So the band (or maybe their parent label, Reunion Records) decided to make an entire Christmas album. In addition to the tear-jerking title track the album features lighter material like "Rockin' Around The Christmas Tree" and "You're A Mean One, Mr. Grinch." Most of the songs are pretty traditional, such as "Away In A Manger" and "What Child Is This?" So if you want classic Christmas, check out The Christmas Shoes.

2001...a big year in Christian music. We saw the release of new studio albums from some of the biggest names in Christian music such as Steven Curtis Chapman and Third Day. For that matter, we saw Third Day emerge as one of the biggest names in Christian music. We saw a group (Raze) poised to go to the "next level" instead go down in flames. We were shocked and deeply saddened when we heard that Tammy Trent's husband, Trent Linderink, was killed in a diving accident. Both Tammy and Trent visited Louisville this year and I was able to meet both of them. Tammy performed at Six Flags Kentucky Kingdom's Spring Celebration. I remember seeing Trent running the soundboard for her. They seemed very happy. What a sweet woman Tammy is, and a great guy Trent was. I wish I could have gotten to know him better.

We saw The Greater Louisville Billy Graham Crusade come to Louisville. It was one of the greatest events to come to our city, ever. Dr. Graham spoke each night to a packed house at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium. Musical guests included Michael W. Smith, Third Day, dc Talk, Kirk Franklin and others.

We saw True Vibe, a "boy band" featuring Campbellsville's Nathan Gaddis, receive amazing mainstream attention including an appearance on "Late Night with David Letterman," and an opening slot on Destiny's Child's national tour.

We saw dc Talk suddenly postpone their "solo" tour, and wondered if the group was going to break up, like the rumors have always said.

We saw a new album from Nikki Leonti, now a young mother, who indeed as her song "Letting Go" states, is "starting all over again".

And we saw the top selling Christian rock album of the year, P.O.D.'s Satellite, released on September 11...the day we'll never forget. The group's first single? "Alive."

2001 is almost over. Thanks for reading. Hope you'll continue in 2002.