Natalie Grant accepts her fifth Female Vocalist win last night at the Dove Awards. The honor was presented by Yolanda Adams, Angie Stone, Karen Peck and Crystal Lewis after their opening performance.
Gospel music’s top artists returned to the historic Fox Theater last night for the 43rd Annual Gospel Music Association Dove Awards. Jason Crabb took home top honors, winning Male Vocalist and Artist of the Year. For a full list of winners, click here. “To be honest I thought, ‘well, we’re probably not going to take anything home this year,’” Crabb told watchgmctv.com. “When they said my name, I couldn’t believe it. I know a lot of people say that, but this is the truth. I wish anybody could hear my heart because I really couldn’t believe it. I’m very, very thankful.”
Chonda Pierce and David Mann served as co-hosts of the televised portion of the event, which will premiere Tuesday at 8 pm et on GMC, with a special encore at 10 pm et. The show kicked off with a performance by Angie Stone, Yolanda Adams, Crystal Lewis and Karen Peck that included Peck belting out “I Go to the Rock” in tribute to the late Whitney Houston, who performed the Dottie Rambo classic on the Doves in 1998. Hometown girl and college student Jamie-Grace captured the Dove for New Artist of the Year. She was emotional over her win, marveling at how much her life had changed since she attended her prom at the Fox Theater just four years ago. “It was the Georgia Homeschool Prom. Yes, we do have friends,” she said good-naturedly referring to the homeschool community. The 19-year-old artist, who struggles with Tourette’s Syndrome, recalls meeting the group ZOEgirl. She was embarrassed by her ticks, but one of the members told her how beautiful she was and that encouragement fueled her desire to pursue her dreams.
Natalie Grant received her fifth win in the Female Vocalist category. Surprised, she said, “I am totally speechless,” as she collected her trophy. “I’m so honored to be in a category with some unbelievable female artists who all deserve to be standing here.” Laura Story took home the Dove for Pop/Contemporary Album of the Year for Blessings. The title track won both Song of the Year and Pop/Contemporary Recorded Song categories. Looking radiant, the expectant mother joked with the press that she thought about going to Dick’s Sporting Goods to buy a tent to wear for the event, and revealed that she learned only seven hours ago that she and her husband would be welcoming a baby girl. “She’ll be my new release!” she laughed. The self-effacing artist also praised Mandisa, with whom she’s been touring, and added that although they’ve become good friends their styles are very different. “It’s like glitter meets granola,” the singer/songwriter said, “or bling meets Birkenstock.”
Stirring performances by artists from contemporary gospel duo Mary Mary and hip-hop frontrunner Lecrae, who took home honors for Rap/Hip-Hop Album of the Year, to worship artist Kari Jobe made the evening a shining example of talented individuals coming together for a united purpose. It was a night of firsts for some of the industry’s veteran artists. Though they weren’t on hand to accept their award, the Perrys won Southern Gospel Recorded Song of the Year for “Celebrate Me Home,” penned by Wayne Haun and Joel Lindsey. It was a big night for Karen Peck and New River. After more than two decades of music ministry, the trio took home their first Dove Awards, winning in the Country Recorded Song of the Year category for “Good Things Are Happening” and Southern Gospel Album of the Year for Reach Out.
“Having a Dove was on my bucket list,” Peck told gmc backstage, “but I didn’t think we would win. We were jumping up and down… We’ve been together 21 years. We’re living proof that some things don’t happen overnight.” Though absent from the festivities, NEEDTOBREATHE earned three Doves, including Group of the Year. Selah won Inspirational Recorded Song and Album for “Hope of the Broken World,” and group member Todd Smith was on hand to accept.
Kirk Franklin collected the Dove for Contemporary Gospel Album for Hello Fear and his hit single “I Smile” won Contemporary Gospel Recorded Song. Another highlight was the special salute to the legendary Russ Taff featuring performances by Jason Crabb, Wess Morgan and Donnie McClurkin singing a medley of hits like “Ain’t No Grave” and “We Will Stand.” “I’ve been on the road 36 years,” Taff told gmc backstage. “Back when I started there wasn’t Internet or all this other kind of stuff. The only way I would hear if I was having an effect was word of mouth, but tonight for the industry to say ‘Russ we appreciate what you’ve done and we appreciate the songs you brought.’ It makes me want to keep going. I’m fired up!”