Ardent Records has signed a disribution and marketing deal with S/R/E Recordings, the new active rock label under INO Records, Billboard.biz has learned. Ardent was previously distributed by EMI Chris

Ardent Records has signed a disribution and marketing deal with S/R/E Recordings, the new active rock label under INO Records, Billboard.biz has learned. Ardent was previously distributed by EMI Christian Music Distribution.

"This is an exciting new chapter in our work in Christian music," Ardent president John Fry tells Billboard.biz. "After a lot of careful investigation, we've come to the conclusion that partnering with the newest member of the INO/Integrity family, S/R/E ... is going to let us focus on the things we do best -- finding and nurturing artists that have uniqueness and authenticity."

Fry founded Ardent Studios in Memphis in 1966; it was the birthplace of hits by the Staple Singers, Led Zeppelin, ZZ Top, Stevie Ray Vaughan, R.E.M., the Gin Blossoms and Three Doors Down.

In 1995, Fry launched Ardent Records, a Christian label that gained acclaim with releases by Big Tent Revival, Skillet, Todd Agnew, Jonah 33 and Smalltown Poets.

The first new release to be worked by S/R/E will be Agnew's next project, due this summer. It will be followed by a Jonah 33 album in the fall and a new Skillet album early next year.

S/R/E will partner with Epic for mainstream distribution of Agnew and Jonah 33, while Skillet maintains its general-market deal with Lava Records.