Natalie Grant, Melinda Doolittle join The Katinas for benefit concert to aid Samoa tsunami victims

Natalie Grant and American Idol's Melinda Doolittle are just two of the artists who joined The Katinas for a benefit concert last month to help the tsunami-ravaged islands of Samoa and American Samoa. The Katinas are natives of American Samoa and lost extended family in the disaster. The brothers have been scheduling benefit concerts to help raise $60,000 in aid. The Katinas have been doing regular mission trips to their native homeland, and before the tsunami hit had a trip already scheduled for this month. To find out how to help, visit The Katinas' Web sites, www.TheKatinas.com or www.Hope4Samoa.com.

The Gospel Music Association held a fundraiser last month to help defray the effects the slowing economy has had on the organization. Billed as "The Concert of the Decade," the event featured performances from Amy Grant, Michael W. Smith, Casting Crowns, MercyMe, Kirk Franklin, Point of Grace, Jason Crabb, Martha Munizzi, the Fisk Jubilee Singers, Natalie Grant, Bernie Herms and the Booth Brothers, and was produced by Brown Bannister. The $1,000-a-ticket concert drew 350 attendees to the Loveless Café & Barn in Nashville, as well a more than 10,000 fans who watched online, raising $350,000 for the organization.

Jeremy Camp, Brandon Heath and Mary Mary were all nominated for 2009 American Music Awards in the Favorite Contemporary Inspirational Artist category. Mary Mary was also nominated for Favorite Soul/R&B Band, Duo or Group, along with The Black Eyed Peas and Day26. The 36th Annual American Music Awards will be broadcast on ABC on Nov. 22.

Newsboys, one of Christian music's favorite bands, recently inked a deal with American Athletics, a licensed Converse distributor, to launch its own line of Converse Chuck Taylor All Star shoes. The joint venture commemorates the first time the shoes have been branded with a Christian music artist's logo. Newsboys join Black Sabbath, The Doors, Grateful Dead, The Who, and Ozzy Osbourne, all of which have their own licensed Chuck Taylors. The sneakers can be ordered only through the Newsboys' Web site, www.newsboys.com.

www.NewReleaseTuesday.com, a Christian music, social and entertainment mega-site, was recognized recently with a 2009 WebAward for Standard of Excellence in Web Development in the faith-based category. Other faith-based winners include Beliefnet.com (where I write about Christian music), Guideposts.com and Joel Osteen Ministries. The annual competition, now in its 13th year, welcomed more than 2,000 entries in 96 categories and 45 countries. Entries were judged on design, copy writing, innovation, content, interactivity, navigation and use of technology. 

Celebrated singer/songwriter and author Andrew Peterson heads out in December on his annual Christmas tour, with special guests and friends Brandon Heath, Jill Phillips and Andy Gullahorn. The event features Peterson's acclaimed Christmas song cycle, Behold the Lamb of God: The True Tall Tale of the Coming of Christ. The tour begins Dec. 3 in Elmhurst, Ill., and marks the 10th year that Peterson and friends have taken their Christmas concert on the road. For tour dates, visit www.andrew-peterson.com.

On Nov. 28, "The Family Force 5's Christmas Pageant" first annual tour kicks off in Grand Rapids, Mich. The Atlanta-based band's combination of dance and rock, funky rhythms and "percolating club grooves" put the Family Force 5 touch on classic holiday tunes and age-old favorites. In accordance with the holiday spirit and in an effort to give back to the communities that "The Family Force 5's Christmas Pageant" will be visiting, the band is asking that their fans bring canned goods for donation to local food banks. The tour is in support of Family Force 5's new Christmas album.

Another notable Christmas release is Downhere's How Many Kings: Songs for Christmas. The album grew out of the band's annual holiday concerts for hometown fans as well as their song "How Many Kings" on Christian radio. On this album, the group lends their signature sound to classic songs like "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" and "What Child Is This," as well as some quirky songs, including "5 Golden Rings."

Two-time CMA Male Vocalist of the Year and winner of CMA Song of the Year for "God Bless the USA" Lee Greenwood gives those familiar golden vocals a turn on a Christmas album, Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas. The album features holiday classics from "Jingle Bells" and "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town" to "Little Drummer Boy" and "Away in a Manger/Silent Night."

In 1998, Jennifer Knapp launched onto the music scene with her folk-inspired debut album, Kansas, and with her other albums—Lay It Down and The Way I Am—went on to sell over a million albums. She toured extensively, performing more than 120 shows yearly from 1997 to 2002, including a stint on the Lilith Tour. Pollstar Magazine even included her among its Top 50 touring acts of the Winter/Spring 2001 season. And then she just disappeared. Rumors abounded, of course, about where she was, what happened, what she was doing now. Well, fans were thrilled to hear that Jennifer Knapp is back with a new single and hopefully, a new album. You can keep up with her on her official Web site, http://jenniferknapp.com.

For more Christian music news, visit Joanne's Gospel Soundcheck blog at Beliefnet.com www.blog.beliefnet.com/gospelsoundcheck.

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