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Christian acts are ready to Raise the Roof

(ran TP edition)

What does it take to raise the roof? Rising stars can't hurt. Two from the Christian music world have been enlisted to headline Somebody Cares Tampa Bay ministry's annual Raise the Roof benefit.

Nicole C. Mullen and True Vibe will perform at the Ice Palace event, which will also include brief speeches on faith from Bucs head coach Tony Dungy, Bucs offensive coordinator Clyde Christiansen, WFTS-Channel 28 news anchor Martie Tucker, and several Tampa Bay Storm players. The Storm will be in action later that evening against the New Jersey Red Dogs, and Raise the Roof ticketholders can stay and watch the 7:30 p.m. arena football game.

In describing the sound of the music acts, Gregory Rumburg, managing editor of the contemporary Christian music monthly CCM magazine, said, "I suppose if Destiny's Child and Shawn Colvin were able to somehow," Rumburg paused to laugh, "come together, I think it might result in Nicole C. Mullen. True Vibe is not terribly different from 98 Degrees or Backstreet Boys."

In fact, True Vibe member Jonathan Lippmann used to be in 98 Degrees. Other than drawing some criticism for advertising that fact (Lippmann left 98 Degrees long before it achieved any real success), the new boy band is off to a promising start, having just released their self-titled debut album.

"They are definitely picking up on the trail blazed by acts like Plus One, Stacie Orrico, Rachael Lampa," Rumburg said on the phone from CCM's Nashville office. "Those are all the (Christian) acts that are bubbling up as part of the popularity of teen pop. They're still out proving themselves, but they are selling a lot of records, they're getting quite a bit of airplay, so I think they'll hold their own."

Rumburg pointed out that, unlike True Vibe and many other Christian acts, Mullen doesn't rely too much on trends from the mainstream pop world to determine her sound or image.

"She's very cool," Rumburg said. "She's one of those people creating great, current, hip music, but she's also an extremely well-rounded individual. She's a mentor working through her church in Franklin, Tenn. And she also works with young girls, usually minority girls, and teaches them about the world and helps them to learn about themselves and raise their self-esteem."

Before releasing her eponymously titled debut album last year, Mullen had a strong resume as a behind-the-scenes artist on the Christian scene. She has sung backup, danced and choreographed for Christian music superstars such as Amy Grant, Michael W. Smith and the Newsboys. She sings the Larry Boy Theme Song from VeggieTales and co-wrote the Jaci Velasquez 1998 hit On My Knees. That won Mullen a Dove award, the gospel music industry equivalent of a Grammy, for song of the year.

Mullen won two more Doves last year for her album, for song of the year (Redeemer) and songwriter of the year. "I would say that she is a rising star," Rumburg said. "She's on the cover of our August issue."

Channel 28 evening news anchor Martie Tucker will be among the local celebrities providing non-musical relief among the music acts. Though Tucker grew up in a religious home, she prefers to think of herself as a "Christian in progress" rather than a "devout Christian."

" "Devout' seems to imply to me that this person has it all down, has it all right," Tucker said.

Nonetheless, Tucker said, "What I want to share with (the young audience) is to be prayerful in your teenage years, and as you're preparing yourself for who you may marry some day."

Tucker, 44, said it never occurred to her pray for guidance on the subject until she was in her 20s. "And here I had grown up in a church. It just struck me as odd. Pray about dating? It seemed frivolous. And of course with a few extra years on me," Tucker laughed, "I look back and it's not frivolous at all."

Tucker says prayer helped her find her husband Paul. "When we got married, I didn't have any doubts."

Proceeds from the event will help Somebody Cares Tampa Bay distribute food to local church and ministry food banks. SCTB president Daniel Bernard says the interdenominational group typically donates 30,000 pounds of food a week. It also donates school supplies to needy children and brings together clergy from across the region for forums and prayer.

Following the event-closing performance of Mullen, local Christian music acts will perform outside on the Ice Palace's plaza, including Higher Ground, Outer Limits, Christina Sanders, Fyre Proof, Young Life and Baylife.