Newsboys surprise: Michael Tait is new front man for the band

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The Newsboys shocked fans recently with the announcement that Michael Tait will be replacing Peter Furler as lead vocalist for the band. The announcement came at a show in Texas, after a series of shows featuring Tait as a guest vocalist. No specific reason was given for Furler turning over the front man reins but in a press release he said, "I'm looking forward to focusing on the band's studio career and spending time in my own bed after many years in a tour bus and hundreds of thousands of miles on the road." He will continue to remain active with the band, writing and producing. The band's latest studio album, In the Hands of God, which releases May 5, features Furler as lead vocalist for the entire album. Newsboys is currently on their Join the Tribe Tour, with special guests DecembeRadio, VOTA and Bread of Stone.

Melinda Doolittle, finalist on 2007's season of American Idol, has released her debut album to rave reviews. Entertainment Weekly said that on the album, Coming Back to You, Doolittle "channels Tina Turner and Aretha Franklin;" the L.A. Times called her music "Motown-inspired R&B and jazz pop;" and the New York Times said the album is "along the lines of vintage Gladys Knight." In addition to her mainstream work, Doolittle has sung backup on gospel and Christian albums, including projects for CeCe Winans, Anointed and the Ragamuffin Band. Her history in the Christian music industry, along with the album's strong spiritual undertones, is making Coming Back to You a hit in the Christian arena as well.

The 40th Annual Dove Awards, which honor the best in Christian and gospel music, will be handed out April 23 at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tenn. The event will be broadcast live on the Gospel Music Channel. Topping the list of nominees this year is current three-time Male Vocalist of the Year Chris Tomlin; Tomlin has seven total nominations this year, including Artist of the Year, Male Vocalist of the Year and Song of the Year for "Amazing Grace (My Chains are Gone)." Veteran artist Natalie Grant and newcomer Francesca Battistelli each received five nominations, as did Casting Crowns. For a complete list of nominees and for information about the show, visit www.doveawards.com.

And, speaking of the Dove Awards, on April 24, Great Worship Songs will be giving away 40 free chord charts in celebration of their writers' Dove nominations as well as 40 years of the GMA Dove Awards. Great Worship Songs is a division of Brentwood-Benson Music Publishing, offering downloadable audio, lead sheets, chord charts, lyrics, CDs, songbooks, choral works and ancillary recorded products. For more information, visit www.greatworshipsongs.com.

Dream Records' debut artist Press Play releases its first project, Life Is Beautiful, on May 19. More than just musicians, the band—comprised of Dave Hanley, Tyler Ray Logan, Anthony Rick, Paige Adkins, Tate Huff and Brian Mondragon—is committed to working with the Los Angeles Dream Center, a non-profit outreach dedicated to helping inner-cities across the U.S. provide people with food, clothing, shelter and daily needs. The band performs for thousands of individuals from all walks of life each week in both New York and Los Angeles, and makes the L.A. Dream Center its home base. The record features guest appearances by top performers such as Darlene Zschech (Hillsong), IROCC and Tyler Williams ("Everybody Hates Chris"). Group member Paige Adkins, daughter of popular comedian Sinbad, brings a powerful and soulful vocal edge to the debut single, "Life Is Beautiful." For more about the band, visit www.thisispressplay.com.

The Now and Not Yet, the sophomore CD from worship leader Jeremy Riddle, debuted at the No. 1 spot on iTunes' Christian & Gospel album sales chart when it was released last month. The album is the follow-up to Riddle's 2007 critically acclaimed Full Attention. For more about Jeremy Riddle, visit www.jeremyriddle.net.

For the week of March 2, USA Today columnist Brian Mansfield highlighted three artists with ties to Christian music: Mat Kearney's  "Closer to Love," from his upcoming album City of Black & White was Mansfield's Pick of the Week; Brandon Heath's single "Give Me Your Eyes" made the week's "Playlist"; and while he's not officially tagged as a Christian artist, believer and musician Dave Barnes' "Loving You, Loving Me" was also on the "Playlist."

And speaking of Brandon Heath: In support of Blood:Water Mission's "40 Days of Water," he's committed himself to his own version of the campaign called "No Joe March." For 40 days (from March 1 to April 9), Brandon will be giving up all other drinks besides water—especially his favorite vice, coffee—and donating money he would have spent to the Blood:Water Mission, which provides clean water to communities in Africa. Joining him on his beverage fast is his keyboard player, Joe Moralez, as well as fans who wanted to be part of the "No Joe March."

The Christian Festival Association is once again partnering with Word Label Group to host a nationwide search for the best new talent in Christian music. The 2009 National Talent Search will start with 19 regional competitions at Christian Music Association-affiliated festivals taking place this summer. Those 19 winners will then be invited to Nashville in September to participate in the national finals. The overall winner will receive a development deal with the Word Label Group family of labels, which includes Fervent Records, Myrrh Records and Word Records. To find out which festivals are participating and get details on how to enter, visit the Christian Festival Association website at www.christianfestivals.com.

Kyle Rae Sweet, wife of Michael Sweet, co-founder of Stryper and current guitarist/vocalist for Boston, passed away in March. She had been diagnosed with cancer in 2007.


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