Grace Notes
By Chris Crain

Tickets are still available for The "Go" Tour featuring Newsboys, Kutless and Stellar Kart coming up on the 15th at the Louisville Palace. Tickets are available at Ticketmaster Outlets. It should be an excellent show-hope to see you there!

Nominations were just announced for the 38th Annual GMA Dove Awards (GMA) with newcomers leading the field alongside established artists while several producers and songwriters also earned multiple nominations. And one of the hosts has a tie to the Bluegrass.

The Dove Awards is an event where artists from every style of gospel music come together for a night of music and celebration as the GMA bestows the industry's Dove Award. This year's nominations were announced at the Renaissance Nashville Hotel by Flow Records' Juanita Bynum, Lexington's Brian Littrell and comedian Thor Ramsey. Dove statuettes will be handed out on April 25, 2007 at the Grand Ole Opry House in Nashville. The awards show will be televised in national syndication in May.

The 2006 Dove Award Artist of the Year Chris Tomlin once again leads the field of artists with nine nominations; Jars of Clay makes a return to the top contenders list with six nods and The Crabb Family earns five nominations. Newcomers Aaron Shust and Leeland each garnered five nominations. Four of the five nominees for Producer of the Year - Ed Cash, Ian Eskelin, Nathan Nockels and Otto Price as well as producer Wayne Haun round out the list of nominees with five or more nods. Other multiple nominees include Casting Crowns, Stellar Kart and Israel Houghton with four nominations apiece.

"It's always fascinating to see which artists GMA members believe to be the best in Christian/Gospel music," said John W. Styll, president and CEO of the GMA. "This year, like in others, established artists like Chris Tomlin, Jars of Clay and The Crabb Family have been recognized for their continued excellence while Aaron Shust, Leeland and Stellar Kart reflect a new wave of vibrant young artists beginning to make their impact in the gospel music community. 'Vibrant' and 'excellent' are also great descriptions for what promises to be an engaging, entertaining and inspiring Dove Awards show, filled with performances that will reflect all the great diversity that is gospel and Christian music."

Top nominees Tomlin and Jars of Clay are up for Artist of the Year along with The Crabb Family, Stellar Kart, Casting Crowns, TobyMac and Third Day, with ties in voting yielding seven nominees in this category instead of the usual five. Leeland and Shust are joined by DecembeRadio, Pocket Full Of Rocks and Ayiesha Woods in the New Artist of the Year category. Group of the Year nomination honors go to BarlowGirl, Casting Crowns, David Crowder Band, Jars of Clay and MercyMe. Tomlin, 2006's reigning Male Vocalist of the Year is nominated again in that category along with Jeremy Camp, Mark Hall (of Casting Crowns), Mat Kearney and Shust. And, last year's Female Artist of the Year Natalie Grant also returns to that category with Krystal Meyers, Christy Nockels, Nichole Nordeman and Rebecca St. James.

Littrell not only co-hosted the nominations announcement, he will share hosting duties for the Dove Awards telecast in April. He was nominated for Short Form Video of the Year for "Welcome Home," the title track from his Christian music debut CD. Co-hosting with Littrell will be Curb recording artist Natalie Grant and Verity Records' Donnie McClurkin. Comedian Thor Ramsey will host the Dove's opening ceremonies where the majority of the awards will be presented.

The new film "Amazing Grace" just opened in Louisville. It looks amazing (no pun intended-really!) so I had to include info on it in the column this month. Featuring modern day versions of period hymns, the "Inspired By" soundtrack for the Samuel Goldwyn Films/Roadside Attractions/Bristol Bay Productions film showcases classics performed by Contemporary Christian, Gospel and Country artists. The Music Inspired By The Motion Picture Amazing Grace soundtrack will be released in January.

Amazing Grace stars Ioan Gruffudd (Fantastic Four) as William Wilberforce, the man who championed the abolition of slavery in the British Empire. His life was also an astounding spiritual and moral quest and he is an inspiration to millions to this day. Elected to Parliament at age 21, Wilberforce led a diverse coalition of believers in a decades-long struggle to end the lucrative but dehumanizing slave trade.

Wilberforce was aided by slave trader-turned abolitionist Rev. John Newton (Albert Finney) and by his spirited wife and political compatriot Barbara Spooner (Romola Garai). Directed by acclaimed director Michael Apted (Coal Miner's Daughter), Amazing Grace tells a story of how one man can change the world.

Rev. John Newton authored the poem "Amazing Grace" that developed into the world-famous hymn we know today, a hymn whose new version is a central aspect of the "inspired by" soundtrack. Chris Tomlin, the 2006 Gospel Music Association (GMA) Award-winner for Artist of the Year, was asked to write a new verse to the song, which he sings along with the Wilberforce University Choir. The final version on the album also includes a resurrected verse that was a part of Newton's original poem, but left out of more recent hymnbooks.

"I was completely floored when they asked of all people - me - to write a new verse for one of the most sacred and recognized hymns of all time. At first I wasn't so sure I wanted to mess with it," Tomlin admits. "But after researching the song, I discovered the famous hymn has withstood previous additions. Even the famous last verse 'when we've been there 10,000 years' was written 100 years after Newton wrote the poem. The song has inspired generations of believers and I hope that it continues to live on long after I'm gone."

Also included on the soundtrack are Country Music Award-winner Martina McBride's powerful version of "How Great Thou Art," and selections from Grammy Award winners Jars of Clay and Steven Curtis Chapman, gospel music stars Smokie Norful and Kiki Sheard, best-selling group Avalon, GMA 2006 Female Vocalist of the Year Natalie Grant and Bart Millard of platinum-selling group MercyMe.

Rounding out the artists contributing to the soundtrack are two-time GMA Award-winning Female Vocalist of the Year Nichole Nordeman and the innovative and well-known David Crowder, who duets with legendary Marty Stuart on the track "Rock of Ages." Rising stars Shawn McDonald and Bethany Dillon also duet on the original song "All Creatures Of Our God And King," as do hit-maker Jeremy Camp and his wife Adrienne on the track "It Is Well."

At press time, the film was playing at Tinseltown Theatre in the East End.