Grace Notes
By Chris Crain

Concert Announcement: Mercy Me, Jeremy Camp, Monk and Neagle and The Afters are coming to Louisville Gardens February 19th. Tickets are on sale through Ticketmaster.

Much has been said about Mercy Me's popularity, and Jeremy Camp is certainly connecting with all of people right now, but singer/songwriter duo Trent Monk and Michael Neagle may be ones to watch in 2005. Known collectively as Monk and Neagle, the pair released their self-titled debut on August 24, 2004.

Produced by Ed Cash (Bebo Norman, Chris Tomlin), the ten songs of Monk and Neagle provide acoustic and pop hooks from start to finish, including "Secret," "Sweep Me Away," "Dancing With the Angels" and the serenade for their beloved brides, "Stars Would Fall (I'm Crazy)." The album is out on Flicker Records.

"Flicker made a great fit for us because they understood our vision for this album, and helped to make that vision a reality," said Neagle. "We wanted this album to convey what the Lord has done in our own personal relationships with Him and the many situations, good and bad, we have walked through in our lives. Our hope is that people from every walk of life will be able to identify with our music, and be encouraged by it."

"The excitement building around Monk and Neagle is amazing to watch, and we are thrilled to be a part of it," said Troy Vest, general manager of Flicker Records. "Trent and Michael already have a phenomenal fan base as independent artists, and they are positioning themselves for explosive growth with their extensive touring presence this year. Their sincerity and artistry are undeniable, and stylistically, this album is at the core of pop music's current direction."

Hailing from Amarillo, Texas, Monk and Neagle met in college and have been close friends for over ten years. Although each had developed individual followings as independent artists, the pair made the decision to travel together as the opening act for fellow Texans Shane and Shane on the group's 2003 tour. Realizing their chemistry on stage together and their shared artistic vision, Monk and Neagle became a formal duo upon signing with Flicker Records.

To my knowledge this marks their first Louisville concert appearance. I'll have more on the concert next month. The good seats are gone by now, but of course, it's Louisville Gardens, so no seat is too bad.

Kentucky's Brian Littrell, one of the five members of pop group Backstreet Boys, has signed a record deal with Provident Label Group's Reunion Records, home to Michael W. Smith and several other Christian artists.

Terry Hemmings, president and CEO of Provident Music Group says, "We are very pleased to welcome Brian into the Provident family. I have had the pleasure of getting to know him over the past two years and experience his enthusiasm for entering this chapter of his recording career. Brian will bring a unique perspective on the Christian life to his music and to our market. We are looking forward to introducing him next year."

Littrell, on recording his first solo album with Provident Label Group shares, "I've been a born-again Christian since I was eight years old and I've known for a very long time that this has been my calling. I hope to reach listeners in this arena and continue to let Backstreet Boys fans know that it's okay to stand for what you believe in. If I can do something that opens doors and benefits lives in some way, I hope to be able to do that."

Littrell's album is scheduled for release to Christian and general market retail in the fall of 2005, with a radio single slated for Spring 2005. Littrell's version of "In Christ Alone" will be made available through the WOW #1s album, releasing to retail through Provident-Integrity Distribution, April 5.

Raised in Lexington, Brian was brought up attending a Baptist church with his family. At age 18, through cousin, Kevin Richardson, he relocated to Orlando, Fl. and became part of super pop-group Backstreet Boys. Ten years, multiple worldwide sold-out tours, countless accolades and more than 55 million albums later Littrell is now working on his first Christian market album with Provident.

Steven Curtis Chapman, Chris Tomlin and Casting Crowns played at Louisville Gardens December 5th. It was an excellent show, bringing together three of the hottest acts in Christian music t in one show.

Casting Crowns, who are outselling nearly everyone in Christian music (including Chapman and Tomlin), opened the show with their Christian radio mega-hit "If We Are The Body". They played a too-short 30-minute set that included "Voice of Truth", "What If His People Prayed" (my personal favorite), and "Who Am I". The crowd of about 3000 loved every minute.

Chris Tomlin, who played before a crowd of 5,000 last September at Southeast Christian Church, followed with a fantastic "worship"-style set that included several new songs of f his latest CD Arriving. For more on the CD, check out my interview with Tomlin in last month's LMN, available at www.louisvillemusicnews.net.

Tomlin's set connected very well with the audience as the atmosphere turned from "concert" to an almost "church-like" feel. Don't think boring, Sunday morning, "I can't wait to get out of here to go eat lunch". I mean "church-like" in that people were just caught up the spirit. Many of the best concerts, Christian and otherwise, have that. I've become more and more a fan of Tomlin and I wasn't disappointed here. Despite being in the spotlight (literally), he manages to take the focus off of him and make it about the music and the message.

Steven Curtis Chapman headlined and did a great job as always. There's a reason top musicians like Jonny Lang appear on his records-he's an amazing player. There were plenty of quiet moments, ballads and talk. But I was most enjoying it when he just played. Particularly on "Lord of The Dance" from Signs of Life, he let loose and the night came closest to a big time rock show.

I can't leave out the fact that a lot of time was spent on the topic of adoption. Chapman has three children he adopted internationally, and all three were in attendance. There was also information about how people can support his foundation, which gives financial aid to couples trying to adopt. It's a worthy cause and if you are interested, check out his website www.scchapman.com for all the details.

Pillar, Project 86, Falling Up, and Subseven played Headliners in November. It was a decent show-I was most impressed with new group Falling Up. While their music didn't blow me away, their performance did. To say it was high energy is an understatement. It was sort like the Chili Peppers with a little Switchfoot thrown in. Pretty good stuff.

As for Pillar and P86, both did fine. If you are a fan, you'd probably like it. They played their biggest hits, and gave passionate performances. There were no surprises. If you didn't know ahead of time and just wandered into the club, I doubt you would know the bands were Christian. Neither mentioned it and the only time I heard "Jesus" was in Pillar's cover of U2's "Sunday, Bloody Sunday". However, that's not a criticism, just an observation-it's their show and their prerogative. Also, I'm not very familiar with their songs, so there may have been all kinds of spiritual references I missed (which sort of backs up my initial point). It was great to have a concert with heavy music, if nothing else! We don't get many of those in Louisville.

Finally, as I write this, I'm still in shock over the shooting of "Dimebag" Darrell Abbott and several others at a club in Columbus, Ohio. His band Damageplan played Louisville a few months back.

While this is a Christian music column, and of course I wouldn't typically be covering Abbott's music, I used to be a huge fan. It was terribly sad news. My deepest condolences go out to all of the families involved.