Grace Notes
By Chris Crain

Mercy Me, perhaps the most popular Christian band in America, brought the "Imagine" tour to the Louisville Palace February 15. The show, which was sold-out, was the group's first headlining appearance in town.

The crowd rose to it's feet early for opener Bebo Norman, who played an "unplugged" set (natch) of songs during a 30-minute set. The biggest response came to the Christian radio hit "Great Light of The World." The crowd rose to their feet and gave him a standing "O."

The other opener of the night, Amy Grant, followed and sang a 45-minute set that featured a mix of her well-known pop hits ("Baby Baby") and older tunes "El Shaddai." Husband Vince Gill made a brief appearance as well, singing a gospel hymn.

After a twenty-minute intermission, Mercy Me took the stage. They opened with a cover of Phil Collins' "In the Air Tonight', then launched into various songs from their top-selling CDs Almost There and Spoken For. As expected, the crowd roared its approval after each song, particularly the mega-hit "I Can Only Imagine." The group played a very well-produced set featuring tons of lights, smoke and graphics for about an hour and fifteen minutes. While not a particularly animated group live, the popularity of the hits and likeability of lead singer Bart Millard kept the crowd cheering the whole time.

The group's new CD releases in April and will likely prove to be another mega-hit. The group pre-sold hundreds at the show that night. Look for 2004 to be another huge year for Mercy Me.

Congrats to Across The Sky, featuring Louisville's Ben Kolarcik, which is a Best New Artist nominee for the Dove Awards this year! Here are some of the nominees, which were announced on February 10th.

Song of the Year :"All About Love"; Steven Curtis Chapman; Sparrow Records, Peach Hill Songs (BMI). "Child of Mine"; Mark Schultz, Chris Eaton; Word Music, Here's to Joe Music, West Lodge Music (ASCAP). "Everything to Me"; Chad Cates, Sue Smith; New Spring Publishing (ASCAP) "Great Light of the World"; Bebo Norman; New Spring Publishing, Appstreet Music (ASCAP) . "He Reigns"; Peter Furler, Steve Taylor; Ariose Music Group (ASCAP), Soylent Tunes (SESAC) . "If We Are The Body"; Mark Hall; Club Zoo Music, Swecs Music (BMI) ."Lord Have Mercy"; Steve Merkel; Integrity's Hosanna! Music (ASCAP) . "Meant to Live"; Jonathan Foreman, Tim Foreman; Sugar Pete Songs, Meadowgreen Music (ASCAP) ."Three Wooden Crosses"; Doug Johnson, Kim Williams; Mike Curb Music, Sweet Radical Music, Sony/ATV Tunes (ASCAP), Sydney Erin Music (BMI) . "Word of God Speak"; Pete Kipley, Bart Millard; Songs from the Indigo Room (SESAC), Simpleville Music (ASCAP)

Male Vocalist of the Year: Bart Millard, David Phelps, Jeremy Camp, Mark Schultz, Steven Curtis Chapman.

Female Vocalist of the Year: CeCe Winans, Joy Williams, Nichole Nordeman, Rebecca St. James, Stacie Orrico.

Group of the Year: Jars of Clay, MercyMe, Newsboys, Switchfoot, Third Day.

Artist of the Year: MercyMe, Michael W. Smith, Randy Travis, Stacie Orrico, Switchfoot .

New Artist of the Year: Across the Sky, Casting Crowns, Jeremy Camp, Kristy Starling, Todd Agnew.

Producer of the Year: Brown Bannister, Christopher Harris, Marc Byrd, Steve Hindalong, Steven V. Taylor.

Pop/Contemporary Recorded Song of the Year: "(There's Gotta Be) More To Life"; Stacie Orrico; Stacie Orrico; Lucy Woodward, Kevin Kadish, Harvey Mason, Jr., Damon Thomas, Sabelle Breer; ForeFront Records. "Child of Mine"; Stories & Songs; Mark Schultz; Mark Schultz, Chris Eaton; Word Records. "I Still Believe"; Stay (I Still Believe); Jeremy Camp; Jeremy Camp, BEC Recordings. "If We Are the Body"; Casting Crowns; Casting Crowns; Mark Hall, Hector Cervantes, Juan DeVevo, Melodee DeVevo, Megan Garrett, Chris Huffman, Andy Williams; Beach Street Records. "Word of God Speak"; Spoken For; MercyMe; Bart Millard, Pete Kipley; INO.

Pop/Contemporary Album of the Year: All About Love; Steven Curtis Chapman; Brown Bannister, Steven Curtis Chapman; Sparrow Records. Casting Crowns; Casting Crowns; Mark Miller, Steven Curtis Chapman; Beach Street Records. Simple Things; Amy Grant; Keith Thomas, Brown Bannister, Wayne Kirkpatrick, Ron Hemby; Word Records. Stacie Orrico; Stacie Orrico; Dallas Austin, Tedd T., Anthony Dent, Harvey Mason Jr., Damon Thomas, Matt Serletic, Sean Hosein, Dane DeViller, Matt Rollings, Mook; ForeFront Records. Stories & Songs; Mark Schultz; Brown Bannister; Word Records.

Long Form Music Video of the Year: #1 Hits Live; The Crabb Family; Amanda Crabb, Kristi Crabb, Shellye Crabb; Gerald & Kathy Crabb; Daywind Music Group. Alive; Audio Adrenaline; ForeFront Records. Free At Last: The Movie (10th Anniversary); dc talk; Ken Carpenter; Dan Pitts, Ken Carpenter, Steven Zeoli; ForeFront Records. Steven Curtis Chapman Live; Steven Curtis Chapman; Kevin McAfee; Kevin McAfee, Steven Curtis Chapman, Joey Canaday; Bearing Fruit Communications; Sparrow Records. Third Day Live In Concert, The Come Together Tour; Third Day; Carl Diebold; Michael Sacci, Ken Conrad, Brian Mitchell, Terria Saunders; Jupiter Project; Essential Records.

The Dove Awards happen April 28th at the Gaylord Entertainment Center in Nashville.

Inpop Records' singer/songwriter duo Shane Barnard and Shane Everett sang at Little Flock Ministry Center on February 12th. It was a free event to help launch the church's "Linear" worship service aimed at College students. Shane and Shane will headline the "Carry Away" Tour accompanied by Rocketown's Ginny Owens and Shaun Groves. A follow up to Shane and Shane's successful 60-city leg of the tour last fall, the "Carry Away" Tour will hit 29 cities nationwide between March 3 and April 4 with average audiences expected at over 2500 per night (according to Inpop).

Pretty amazing for a group that has hit little exposure on radio and are unknown to many. Known collectively as Shane and Shane, they have experienced success since releasing Carry Away, the duo's critically acclaimed, best-selling sophomore project March. A Top 10 debut on SoundScan's "Top Christian Albums" chart and #149 spot on Billboard's "Top 200" pushed Carry Away to immediate sales success and helped drive the album up radio charts as well. "Be Near," the initial single from Carry Away produced by Newsboys' frontman Peter Furler, hit #3 on the Christian Radio Weekly (CRW) Inspirational radio chart and #14 on CRW's Adult Contemporary chart. In the fall of 2003, the momentum for Shane and Shane built further with a successful 60-city tour while the duo continued to receive tremendous support from retailers and media. The worshipful urgency and artistic crafting of Carry Away prompted Worship Leader Magazine to call the album, "a highlight of the current contemporary Christian season and proof positive of a fresh wind of artistry blowing across the musical landscape."

The "Carry Away" Tour will launch at Rocketown in Nashville, Tenn., March 3, continuing to such cities as Birmingham, AL; Fargo, ND; San Antonio, TX and thirteen others.