Casting Crowns Wins Artist Of Year At Dove Awards

For Casting Crowns, the Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away.

Shortly after having its five-year winning streak as group of the year snapped at the 41st annual Dove Awards on Wednesday, the top-selling Christian supergroup won the night’s biggest award, the fan-voted artist of the year.

“To me it’s extra special because the fans were voting,” Casting Crowns leader Mark Hall said. “It really wasn’t anywhere on our radar.”

Photo: AP Photo
Accepting the artist of the year award at the Dove Awards in Nashville, Tenn.

Producer and songwriter was the night’s big winner with four awards.

Ingram and Rusty Varenkamp won producer of the year for their work on Tenth Avenue North’s Over And Underneath and Ingram was part of the songwriting team that won song of the year for the band’s “By Your Side.” He also gets a trophy for being a producer on that song. He also was a co-writer on Bebo Norman’s inspirational song of the year, “The Only Hope.”

Ingram told the story backstage of the first time he met members of Tenth Avenue North, the 2009 best new artist winner.

“They weren’t pursuing music,” he said. “They were pursuing God and music was just their medium.”

Perhaps in a show of how diverse Christian and gospel music has become, no act won more than four.

Needtobreathe earned three Doves for group of the year, rock/contemporary album of the year for The Outsiders and rock/contemporary song of the year for “Lay ‘Em Down.”

The Possum Kingdom, S.C., rock quartet, led by brothers Bear and Bo Rinehart, snapped Casting Crowns’ run in the group category, catching the audience by surprise.

A host of acts took two awards, including Brandon Heath, who won male vocalist of the year for the second consecutive time. Francesca Battistelli snapped Natalie Grant’s four-year run as female vocalist of the year.

Photo: AP Photo
Performing at the Dove Awards in Nashville.

Late-bloomer Jennie Lee Riddle also won two Doves, including songwriter of the year. She told reporters she spent many years raising her four children before she began to lay pen to paper.

“I spent my youth raising my babies,” she said. “It’s just amazing God has me here at this late date.”

Sidewalk Prophets waged a grassroots campaign on the way to winning the awards’ other fan-voted category, new artist of the year.

The band has logged 31,000 miles in a touring van so far this year and aren’t about to stop.

“The coolest thing is we get to go to Disney World in five days and I’m stoked about that,” Dave Frey said. “So I can truly say, ‘I’m going to Disney World!'”

There were several inspiring performances during the show, which was taped and will air Sunday on GMC.

Grant, who co-hosted the show with MercyMe’s Bart Millard, opened the show with a duet of “Human” with “American Idol” winner Jordin Sparks. Battistelli made a quick change from a black and white knee-length dress into a long, red number shortly after winning female vocalist and sang her “Beautiful, Beautiful.”

Photo: AP Photo
Perform at the Dove Awards.

Two of Christian and gospel music’s longest-running acts also sang new material. BeBe and CeCe Winans sang their song “Grace” and Amy Grant played “Better Than A Hallelujah.”

A couple of collaborations turned up the volume. Former Korn guitarist joined modern rock band Red for a flaming rendition of the medley “Fight Inside”/”Death of Me,” which brought half the crowd to its feet and left the other half stunned, and David Crowder joined MercyMe on another medley, “All of Creation”/”How He Loves.”

Casting Crowns was joined on stage by a children’s choir, which shouted through small plastic megaphones at the end of “Until The Whole World Hears.”

It was a fitting matchup.

Despite its widespread success – the band’s four albums have sold more than 5 million copies and they’re one of the top touring acts – Casting Crowns remains rooted in the youth ministry that spawned it. All seven members work with young people and their parents and limit touring to Thursday through Saturday.

There’s little question they could fill those other four days up with concerts. Casting Crowns’ message is rooted in the Bible, flavored with rock ‘n’ roll and delivered with an earnestness that clearly connects with its audience.

In the end, though, it’s not about album sales or tour revenue for Hall and his bandmates.

“Songs come from what we’re teaching,” Hall said in an earlier interview with The Associated Press. “All these songs start out as Bible studies, messages, things that have come up in conversation. They all start out in ministry and sort of evolve into these songs.”

Hall and three other members of the band are active in youth ministry at the Eagle’s Landing First Baptist Church and the other three minister at nearby churches. The bus is always in the parking lot well before Sunday service.

“People ask me all the time, ‘Do they really go to church there?'” Eagle’s Landing pastor Tim Dowdy said. “They don’t just go to church here, they’re serving and teaching and leading every time they’re here. They’ll be here at 4 on Sunday morning, sleep on the bus till 6, take showers and at 9:30 they’re leading Bible studies with students and at 11 they’re leading worship and at 4 they’re in discipleship with kids and at 7 they’re leading the parents meeting. That’s just what they do.”