MUSIC NEWS Casting Crown's Hall leads Dove nominations with 6

The nominations are in for the 39th Annual GMA Dove Awards and this year's top nominee is Mark Hall, lead vocalist and songwriter of Casting Crowns, with six nominations including Male Vocalist and Song of the Year. Casting Crowns added four more nominations, including Artist and Group of the Year nods. Chris Tomlin earned five nominations, including Artist of the Year, Male Vocalist of the Year and Song of the Year. Rock/hip-hop artist TobyMac and progressive worship band David Crowder Band each also earned five nominations. The 39th Annual GMA Dove Awards show will take place at The Grand Ole Opry House in Nashville on April 23 and will be broadcast live (finally!) and in high definition on the Gospel Music Channel from 8 to 10 p.m. For a complete list of nominees or to find out how you can purchase tickets to the show, visit www.gospelmusic.org.

The Christian Music Festival Association has teamed up with Provident Label Group for the 2008 National Talent Search. Regional competitions, including one at Spirit West Coast-Del Mar, will take place at 12 CFA-affiliated festivals this summer and a regional winner will be determined at each festival. Those 12 winners will be invited to Nashville in September to participate in the national finals. The winner will receive a development deal with Provident Label Group (which includes Reunion Records, Essential Records and Flicker Records). For more information visit www.spiritwestcoast.org.

The Clark Sisters were the big winners at the 50th Annual Grammy Awards in February. The group took home awards for Best Gospel Performance (tying with Aretha Franklin & Mary J. Blige, featuring the Harlem Boys Choir), Best Gospel Song, and Best Traditional Gospel Album. Ashley Cleveland won for Best Rock or Rap Gospel Album and Israel and New Breed took home top honors for Best Pop/Contemporary Gospel Album. Grammy nominee Michael W. Smith was a presenter for the pre-telecast, handing out 15 awards in the Pop and Country categories. For a complete list of winners, visit www.grammy.com.

Switchfoot launches its spring "Up in Arms Tour" in San Antonio March 27. The tour, which also includes the hit English band, Athlete, will benefit To Write Love on Her Arms, a non-profit movement dedicated to presenting hope and finding help for those struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury and suicide. The tour will hit college towns throughout the South and Midwest states through May.

Hard rockers P.O.D. are back with a new album, reuniting with guitarist Marcos Curiel for the lineup that brought the group multi-Platinum success. The new album also features guest appearances from Paige Hamilton of Helmet, Mike Muir of Suicidal Tendencies and The Marley Sisters. When Angels and Serpents Dance releases April 8.

The Southern Gospel Music FanFair, one of the largest southern gospel music events in the nation, is set for March 31 to April 5 in Chattanooga, Tenn. The event allows fans to meet and greet their favorite artists and vote for the top performers in the industry. A talent show also spotlights up-and-coming artists. The SGM FanFair Fan Awards honor gospel legends, acknowledge accomplishments and recognize fan favorites within various genres of the southern gospel music industry. Grammy-nominated Karen Peck and New River, Lulu Roman, The Freemans, The Nelons and The Singing Cookes are just some of the artists scheduled to appear during the weeklong event. For more information, visit www.sgmfanfair.com.

Rockers Kutless are going back to their roots as a college worship band with a spring acoustic tour. The band wanted to create an environment where they could enter into a worshipful time with their fans, which is a departure from their intense rock show. The tour kicks off March 6 in Minneapolis, Minn. and will include newcomers Esterlyn and Chris Taylor, both releasing debut albums in 2008.

In January, Third Day traveled to Kuwait and Iraq to perform for (and with) U.S. troops. The band invited several members of the audience to join them onstage during its show at Contingency Operating Base Speicher outside Tikrit in Iraq. The trip, part of the USO's activities in the area, also included performances at Camp Arijan in Kuwait and Camp Liberty in Baghdad.

Pop vocal group Avalon also hosted two special concerts at Kunman Church for troops stationed in Seoul, Korea.

John Tesh's television special, "Alive: Music and Dance," debuts on PBS this March. The show is a celebration of faith, music, dance and family and features an inspiring evening of entertainment for the entire family. The companion CD and DVD will also be released in March.

Even if you don't know anything about Michael English's past you can't miss the clear message in his latest album, The Prodigal Comes Home. I met English at an industry event last year during Gospel Music Week and it was assumed that everyone there knew his story. So when it was my turn to sit with him I had to (humbly and gracefully) admit that I didn't know who he was or what had happened to him. He willingly shared his story of success, drug addiction, downfall and rebirth, and while I believed everything he told me about grace and mercy, it wasn't until he completely broke down talking about his daughter that I understood that this was truly a man who had journeyed to the depths of despair and back again. His first studio album in eight years is a mix of upbeat pop and ballads with an obvious message of forgiveness and grace.

Modern rockers Sanctus Real have always been transparent with their fans, and now they take it all one step farther with their new blog, www.SanctusReality.com. The site features episodes of a new docu-series podcast from the band that is an often-humorous backstage pass to the band's everyday life on tour. The site also includes personal blog posts from the band members about their daily lives.