With eight nominations each, Steven Curtis Chapman, Nicole C. Mullen, Toby McKeehan, and Rebecca St. James lead the field for the Gospel Music Association's (GMA) 33rd annual Dove Awards. Michael W. S

With eight nominations each, Steven Curtis Chapman, Nicole C. Mullen, Toby McKeehan, and Rebecca St. James lead the field for the Gospel Music Association's (GMA) 33rd annual Dove Awards. Michael W. Smith earned seven nominations, while Kirk Franklin, Selah, producer Brown Bannister, newcomer Shaun Groves, and Third Day each grabbed five nods.

"It hopefully validates us in people's eyes," Third Day vocalist Mac Powell said of his band's nominations. "It shows that we're not a flash-in-the-pan group." Powell is also up for the male vocalist of the year award, a category that also boasts Chapman, Smith, David Phelps, and Mark Schultz.

Chapman, Mullen, Smith, and Third Day will compete with P.O.D. for artist of the year honors. Third Day and P.O.D. will also vie for the group of the year award, facing competition from Point Of Grace, Avalon, and Selah.

Mullen, St. James, Natalie Grant, CeCe Winans, and Nichole Nordeman are up for the best female vocalist award. "I'm really surprised because I haven't really done much recently," Nordeman said. "I've been in the studio and traveling and out of the public eye. There's definitely a sense of satisfaction that my peers nominated me anyway."

Other notable nominations include country legend Johnny Cash's inclusion in the special event album of the year category for his contribution to the Flicker Records project "Soul Lift." The set is up against such formidable multi-artist outings as BEC's "Happy Christmas 3" (Kendall Payne, Supertones, etc.), Verity's "In Case You Missed It" (Fred Hammond, Charles and Candace Laster, etc.), GospoCentric's "Kingdom Come: The Soundtrack" (Kirk Franklin, Jill Scott, Carl Thomas, etc.), ForeFront Records' "Prayer of Jabez" (Sarah Sadler, John Hartley, etc.), and Daywind's "We Will Know Peace" (the Perrys, Gold City, etc.).

Mannheim Steamroller grabbed a nod in the best instrumental album column for the American Gramaphone set "Christmas Extraordinaire." The album topped Billboard's Top Contemporary Christian, Top Holiday Albums, Top Independent Albums, Top Internet Albums, and Top New Age Albums charts, and reached No. 5 on The Billboard 200.

Lou Rawls received a nomination in the best traditional gospel album category for his Malaco album "I'm Blessed," while the veteran country group the Oak Ridge Boys earned a best country song nomination for "Write Your Name Across My Heart," from their Spring Hill Music set "From the Heart." Actress Ann Margret also earned a nomination for best country album for "God Is Love: The Gospel Sessions."

The Dove Awards will be handed out at an April 25 ceremony at Nashville's famed Grand Ole Opry House. Winners in 41 categories covering a wide array of musical styles -- from bluegrass to rap to Southern gospel -- will be determined by the GMA's 5,000 members.

For the full list of nominees, visit the official Dove Awards Web site.


-- Barry A. Jeckell, N.Y. & AP






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