Grace Notes
By Chris Crain

One of Christian music's most beloved artists comes to Kentuckiana at the end of this month. Rebecca St. James, known not only for her musical talent but also for her perpetually upbeat personality, comes to Graceland Baptist Church on the March 30.

What does "perpetually upbeat" mean? She's not Katie Couric. I mean, Rebecca is a person who always seems to have a smile and a positive word to share. She conducts herself in a manner that reflects her beliefs and worldview (and isn't that what you would expect from a Christian artist?).

Rebecca was born in Australia and lived there until her early teens. Her father is a concert promoter and was able to get her a gig opening on the Australian leg of a Carman tour. Soon after the family moved to the states. One thing led to another (I believe the phrase is "yadda, yadda, yadda") and Rebecca signed to Forefront Records in 1994. A lot has happened since then. In her bio she talks about winning a Grammy in 1999:

"It was so unexpected for me to win the Grammy (for her fourth album Pray). I mean, it's not every day you get nominated. It was great sitting there with my family enjoying the night. When they announced my name and album, it was a dream come true," she says. "It was great to get up there in front of Phil Collins and Sting and Santana and be able to say why I do what I do."

I interviewed her shortly after that, which I'm sure was a big highlight in her career. OK, maybe not! Anyway, she's one of Christian music's top female artists and it's great to see that she's returning to the area. It's also great that she's bringing along one of the hottest new groups in the industry.

A year ago, Big Daddy Weave was a regional band whose blend of pop, rock and blues drew the attention of several record labels-among them, a relatively new imprint called Fervent Records. And, as many have said, what a difference a year makes. Big Daddy Weave wraps up 2002 with the "big daddy" of award nominations for a newcomer in Christian music, competing for the honor of New Artist of the Year at the Gospel Music Association's 34th Annual Dove Awards and giving Fervent Records its third Dove nod since their launch only two years ago.

Among the six nominees - which also include Paul Colman Trio (Essential Records), Jeff Deyo (Gotee Records), Souljahz (Squint Records), Daily Planet (Reunion Records) and Rock and Roll Worship Circus (Integrity Records) - Big Daddy Weave is both the highest selling new artist in the Christian marketplace in 2002 and the fastest selling new artist for the year, according to Soundscan sales figures.

One And Only, Big Daddy Weave's Fervent Records debut, hit stores in July 2002 and was welcomed by retailers and fans alike. The project was the highest charting debut for a new artist in 2002, scanning nearly 50,000 units in just 24 weeks and remaining in the top 20 on the Soundscan Top Christian Album Chart for six consecutive weeks.

Meanwhile, Christian radio helped to drive the success of the album, as their debut single, "In Christ," became the highest charting Adult Contemporary (AC) single for a new artist in 2002 according to Radio & Records (R&R), peaking at No. 2. At press time, Big Daddy Weave's current single, "Audience of One," is currently at No. 13 and climbing at AC radio (R&R).

In 2002, Big Daddy Weave was consistently on the road in support of One And Only, performing solo dates and opening spot dates for FFH. In the spring of 2003, Big Daddy Weave hit the road with St. James, with the tour slated to run through May of this year.

Big Daddy Weave lead vocalist and primary songwriter Mike Weaver summed up the group's excitement about the nomination. "We are very honored to be included in this industry tradition and honored as well to be named among such artists."*

The nomination is the third to date for two-year-old Fervent Records (distributed by Provident Music Distribution), who scored wins last year in both the Modern Rock/Alternative Album and Modern Rock/Alternative Song categories with their debut signing, By The Tree and the group's first project and title cut, Invade My Soul. Now, as their second band, Big Daddy Weave, makes an impression with industry and fans alike, the label is hoping to score their third consecutive win.

"We are thrilled for Big Daddy Weave," says Fervent Records' president Susan Riley. "They have broken records for the industry as a new artist in 2002 and have also set records for us as a label. We couldn't be happier for them."

Born out of the University of Mobile (Ala.) college circuit, Big Daddy Weave is named for the Weaver brothers, Mike (guitar, lead vocals) and Jay (bass guitar, vocals). Jeremy Redmon (guitar, vocals), Jeff Jones (drums) and Joe Shirk (saxophone, keyboard, vocals) round out the five-man group, which Billboard called "a major new talent" as well as touting their debut as "the feel good album of the year" (September 7, 2002).

In addition to performing alongside Rebecca on her spring tour in 2003, Big Daddy Weave's current single, "Audience of One," will be featured as a bonus cut on the upcoming WOW Worship project, releasing in March 2003 through Provident Music Distribution. Currently, One and Only remains in the top 50 on the Top Christian Albums chart according to Soundscan (January 15, 2003).

The nominees for the 34th Annual Dove Awards ceremonies were announced in Nashville, TN, on January 14, 2003, with the awards show to be held on April 10, 2003, at the Gaylord Entertainment Center in Nashville.

Rebecca, Big Daddy Weave, Charmaine, Aaron Spiro and Rivertribe come to Graceland Baptist Church, 3600 Kamer-Miller Rd. in New Albany on March 30 at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are available at area Christian bookstores and at itickets.com

Another concert announcement: Natalie Grant brings her powerful vocal presence to Evangel World Prayer Center on May 2. Tickets were scheduled to go on sale sometime this month (the on-sale date had not be finalized at press time). She is on tour in support of her latest CD, Deeper Life. Tickets will be on sale at area Christian bookstores. I'll have more on Natalie, who is nominated for Female Vocalist of The Year at this year's Dove Awards, in next month's LMN.

Finally, I just got word that True Vibe had broken up. The group, which featured Campbellsville's Nathan Gaddis, has apparently split up to pursue separate interests. According to the group's label, Essential Records, founder Jonathan Lippman is still technically with True Vibe, but all three of the remaining members have moved on.

It was a short run for the group, who received a Grammy nomination this year for their latest project, See The Light. True Vibe's debut project released in 2001. I had a chance to get to know the guys pretty well over the last two years, interviewing them on several occasions and working with them at a concert in Louisville last year. I thought they were the best group for their style of music (they didn't like to be called a "boy band," but thought of themselves as a Christian version of Boyz II Men).

Hopefully I'll get a chance to talk to Jonathan or Nathan in the next few weeks and get the story from them. Look for any additional info coming soon in LMN.