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Washington Voices

Mixing Country And Gospel Music Is Making Hits For Valley Vocalist

The Northwest is a long way from Nashville, but that hasn’t stopped a Valley woman from gaining notice as a gospel and country singer.

Crystal Rose was nominated for the Female Vocalist Newcomer and Female Horizon Artist awards by the International Gospel Music Association this year. Tracks from her newest release, “Heaven Bound Train,” are now playing on country and gospel radio stations nationwide.

Singles from the album reached the gospel country charts in Texas, North Carolina, Oklahoma and Tennessee. Her latest single, “Montana Skies,” even charted No. 11 in Virginia.

Rose, a 37-year-old mother of five, spends most of her time planning music for services at Calvary Chapel of the Spokane Valley - the church where her husband, David Hall, is pastor. Nonetheless, Rose found the time to write, record and independently release her album in 1994.

What made it finally hit this year, though, was when selected tracks ended up on a compilation CD sent out to radio stations. Programmers liked what they heard, and now she’s searching for a major distributor.

Rose chalks up her burgeoning success to timing. She said big name performers such as Alabama and Kathy Mattea are now popularizing Christian country, paving the way for artists like herself.

“This was released just about the same time Christian country music just exploded,” she said. “Timing has a lot to do with getting your foot in the door.”

If that’s the case, Rose was ahead of her time all along. Born and raised in Troy, Mont., she has been writing and performing music since she was 13 years old. All along, she has fused the country sound she loves with gospel lyrics. She even recorded an album in 1981 through Calvary Chapel in California, but without a big promotional push.

This time, she’s determined to get noticed - but not by giving up her independent label, Iron Creek Music.

“I think there are great advantages to being independent,” she said. “You can make your tour schedule, which is important because I’m the main worship leader here, and because of my kids.”

Most of the time her children, who range in age from 2 to 12, go with her when she travels to country music festivals. Rose hopes some of her love of the music rubs off on them.

“I don’t want to push them, but my wish is that I’d like to have a family band some day,” she said.

Much of the time, she brings the country music festival to her. Each month, she organizes a concert featuring a different country gospel artist. The shows are free, and she’s always looking from new talent.

One of the reasons Rose likes to hear others play is that she is always trying to find new ideas for her music. On her “Heaven Bound Train” album, there are elements of rhythm and blues and bluegrass as well as country.

Her lyrics, though, all share a common trait. Whether the songs are gospel or straight-ahead country, the messages are always positive.

“There are a lot of people who like country, but want a positive message,” she said. “When I go out to sing, I like to see people encouraged in their life and faith, and have new hope brought into their hearts.”