Chris Tomlin was the big winner at the Gospel Music Association's 38th annual Dove Awards, held last night (April 25) at Nashville's Grand Ole Opry House. Tomlin netted six trophies, including artist and male vocalist of the year, both categories he won last year.

Indie artists took their share of the top prizes. Newcomer Aaron Shust won three major awards-- new artist, songwriter of the year and song of the year for "My Savior My God." Shust records for Atlanta-based indie Brash Music, distributed by Word. Slanted Records band DecembeRadio won rock album of the year for its self-titled debut.

Natalie Grant repeated last year's win in the female vocalist of the year category. Grant, who recently gave birth to twin girls, also served as co-host of the show with Brian Littrell and Donnie McClurkin. The show will begin airing in national television syndication in May.

The Doves recognize a diverse slate of artists from pop to rock to country and rap. "Now in every style of music, there's someone singing about Jesus and as a youth pastor, that's awesome to me," says Mark Hall of Casting Crowns, which won the group of the year and pop/contemporary song of the year for "Praise You in This Storm."

The rise in indie achievement is also being hailed as a positive trend being fueled by radio support. "Radio no longer cares where a record comes from," says EMI Christian Music Group president/CEO Bill Hearn. "If it researches well and impacts their audience, then they are going to play it. They don't care whether it comes from an independent label or a major label. That's really what is driving a lot of the young, fresh talent that you're seeing pop up at the awards."

The Dove Awards mark the end of the annual Gospel Music Week gathering that
took place in downtown Nashville April 21-25. The event included numerous seminars, showcases and presentations.