Singer tops again at gospel awards

— For the second straight year, contemporary Christian singer Michael W. Smith earned the top award of best artist at the Dove Awards.

In all, Smith claimed four of Christian music's version of the Grammys -- including best male vocalist -- Thursday night, bringing his total to 41 since 1987.

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AP Photo

Amy Grant, left, applauds Michael W. Smith after they performed Smith's song "Friends" at the closing of the Dove Awards in Nashville, Tenn. The Dove Awards were given Thursday for the best in the gospel music industry.

"Somebody asked me backstage, 'Does this really ever get old? Do you ever really get tired of it?'" Smith said in accepting his third best artist award in five years.

"I said, 'You know what? I'll always be grateful because it is an honor and a great responsibility to be in this business and be about the things of God.'"

Christian pop star Nichole Nordeman, expecting her first child this summer, won seven awards. She fought back tears after winning songwriter of the year.

"Amy Grant made me start crying and now it's just a hormonal train wreck," said Nordeman, whose other honors included best female vocalist and song of the year for "Holy."

The Dove Awards recognize everything from staid gospel quartets and country to rock, rap and teen pop. The 4,500 members of the Gospel Music Assn. nominate and vote for the winners.

Six-time best artist winner Steven Curtis Chapman and CeCe Winans, one of Christian music's best-loved divas, were hosts for the 34th annual event at the Gaylord Entertainment Center.

"We're here to celebrate the music that delivers the ultimate message of hope and peace," Winans said as the show opened.

The audience raised its hands in support of U.S. troops at the urging of Third Day -- which won group of the year for the third straight year and best rock recorded song for "40 Days."

Other winners included the Paul Colman Trio as new artist of the year and Brown Bannister as producer of the year.

The Dove Awards will be broadcast at 8 p.m. April 19 on PAX TV, Sunflower Broadband channel 18.

Bannister joined Vince Gill in producing Grant's "Legacy ... Hymns & Faith," the inspirational album winner.

Grant and Gill, who are married, also won for country recorded song for "The River's Gonna Keep On Rolling," while Randy Travis' "Rise And Shine" was the country album winner.

Even if he hadn't won, Smith knew it would be a special night as the Gospel Music Assn. paid tribute to his 20-year career.

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