Grammy nominations for Houghton, Switchfoot and Forever Jones

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If Israel Houghton's Love God. Love People. wins the Grammy award for Best Pop/Contemporary Gospel Album, it will be the artist's fourth straight CD award from The Recording Academy. Recorded at London's famed Abbey Road Studio, the song "You Hold My World," received a Best Gospel Performance nomination. Houghton's diverse style reflects his personal journey as a black man growing up in a white family, within a Hispanic neighborhood.

Houghton's birth is a good reminder for January, Sanctity of Life month. He told the 700 Club that his white teenage mother fled to California from her Iowa home. The baby's father was black; her family urged an abortion. An unknown woman driving by the pregnant teen in San Diego, Calif. stopped with a message. "Jesus loves you. You did the right thing." Because of that "revolutionary" encouragement, Houghton's mom prayed for salvation.

"She got on her knees on the street corner" he said.

The alternative rock band Switchfoot has also garnered Grammy attention. Their seventh album, Hello Hurricane, is a Best Rock or Rap Gospel Album nominee. The San Diego rockers are recording an album slated for a summer 2011 release.

Get Ready by Forever Jones is a nominee for Best Contemporary R&B Gospel Album. "He Wants It All" is in contention for Best Gospel Performance. The family band has northwest roots. Washington natives Dewitt and Kim Jones and their five children, now minister in Shreveport, La.

CBS will televise the 53rd Grammy Awards from the Staple Center in Los Angeles on Feb. 13. A complete nominee list is located at www.grammy.com/nominees.


New Heights gets creative to attract label interest
Seattle Times reporter Marian Liu recently compared a Federal Way, Wash. band to Switchfoot. "Positive, not preachy," was her description of Christian rock band New Heights. The band is comprised of church music directors Chris Kwak of All Nations Community Church in Lake Forest Park and Travis Graham of Washington Cathedral, Redmond.

After record executive attention failed to produce a deal, the band developed an aggressive social media strategy. Graham posted weekly songs from his bedroom on YouTube. Twitter, YouTube and Facebook traffic increased; particularly "Peaches" which generated nearly 200,000 views in one month. Church relationships generated the November opportunity to open for the David Crowder Band during CXLive 2010, at Bethel Korean Church in Irvine, Calif.

A self-produced album, recorded in Seattle and Nashville, is under way with help from friends and fans. Jon Howard, the new lead guitarist for Paramore, a mainstream punk pop band, will play on a few songs. Award-winning producer Aaron Sprinkle will produce one track. Without label support, New Heights designed its own "Kickstarter" campaign to raise production funds.

New Heights will perform at the H20 for Humanity Benefit Concert at Seattle University's Campion Hall, Jan. 7.


The Choir releases acoustic album with cello
Indie rock pioneers The Choir waited five years to release Burning Like the Midnight Sun last summer. The Chicago Sun-Times called the album "a late-career triumph." Then the band followed up with a second release in one year: de-plumed, an acoustic compilation of selections from their 25-year career of musical innovation that began in the 1980s Calvary Chapel alternative music scene. Band members Steve Hindalong and Derri Daugherty tapped the cello talent of long-time friend Matt Slocum of Sixpence None the Richer.


Chris Tomlin touring with Northern Irish Group
Chris Tomlin will bring his "And If Our God is For Us" tour to the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn., Feb. 16.

The tour heads west in April with performances April 12 in Los Angeles and April 16 in Seattle.

In addition to fellow Passion Movement leaders Louie Giglio and Christy Nockels, the event will feature the first major national U.S. appearance of Northern Ireland's Rend Collective Experiment.

"We're a 'collective' that is not into the celebrity aspect of the worship scene" explains Rend member Gareth Gilkeson, underscoring why the 15-plus member band's images do not feature individual faces. 

More than 275,000 people have viewed the cover of Chris Tomlin's "How Great is Our God," using iPhones for instrumentation.


The mystery of Chris and Conrad
What happened to Chris and Conrad? This Floridian duo, best known for their version of Brooke Fraser's "Lead Me to the Cross," has disappeared from public view. 

Chris and Conrad were part of the "Today Tour" with Christian folk singer JJ Heller and the rock band 33 Miles. On the tour's final night, Heller told the Christian Examiner that Chris and Conrad failed to get on the tour bus midway through their fall tour.

"We met the guys on the bus like we normally do (for a) run of shows and we said, 'Where's Chris and Conrad?'" JJ said that's how she learned the third act was gone.

"They're not even playing music. we don't really have anything."

Requests for official information produced this VSR Records statement: "Chris Kuti and Conrad Johnson will no longer be recording and performing together as Chris and Conrad. We would appreciate your prayers for them in this season."

Two months later, there was no mention of the break-up on their official website.


Swift action for NeedToBreathe
Country/pop phenom Taylor Swift reportedly handpicked Christian rockers NeedToBreathe for her Speak Now World Tour 2011. Why did Swift pick two South Carolina sons of an Assembly of God pastor and their two childhood friends? Is it their artistry with guitar, banjo, and mandolin? On Dec. 1 Swift posted on her Twitter account: "NeedToBreathe is my opening act for the Speak Now Tour. It'll be a nightly challenge to get ready for my show instead of watching theirs."


Update on Baby Bowen
An "ABC News With Diane Sawyer" film crew covered the hospital departure of Baby Bowen, the infant son of Matt Bowen, lead guitarist of Sanctus Real. The child, born Sept. 10 with a congenital heart disease, was fighting a serious infection. The feature aired Nov. 24, introduced by a smiling George Stephanopoulos. "Here is our favorite Thanksgiving story!"

Matt Hammitt shared his spiritual journey with a national network audience.

"You can either be angry or bitter when bad things come your way, or you can let them shape you and mold you and teach you lessons about life," he said. "You can trade your pain in for purpose. All Bowen's pain will have purpose. It will, we believe that with all our hearts."

Readers can follow Bowen's progress at www.bowensheart.com.


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