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In praise of - gospel music.

Not the sort of gospel music that made John Belushi cartwheel down the aisle in The Blues Brothers, though.

Banish from your mind all thought of Aretha Franklin or Mahalia Jackson or the great Golden Gate Quartet, whose Stalin Wasn't Stallin' (A Modern Spiritual) was an unlikely hit in 1943 back when the Americans were still on speaking terms with nasty old Uncle Joe.

No, think instead of 35-year-old Friar Alessandro, a Franciscan monk from Italy who was the first member of his order in more than 800 years to sign a record deal and whose debut album, Voice From Assisi, was recorded at Abbey Road studios and reached 28 in the album charts. Or Matt Redman, a Brighton-based songwriter and evangelical who last month won two Grammy Awards for 10,000 Reasons (Bless The Lord), taken from his 10,000 Reasons album.

Theirs are just two of the Christian and Gospel long-players released in the UK last year. In total there were around 600 and, while they didn't all sell as well, it's proof that Britain is catching up with America in terms of its appetite for faith-based music: there, Christian and Gospel music sold a whopping 26 million albums last year, more than classical, blues and jazz combined.

As a result of all this, the Chart Company, which oversees the UK's pop and rock charts, is to launch the first official album chart devoted to the genre. The charts will be published on the company's website alongside the lists containing more familiar names than Friar Alessandro and Matt Redman.

"This is a defining moment and changes the landscape for Christian and Gospel music in the UK," said Jonathan Brown, head of the UK's biggest Christian and Gospel record label, Integrity Music.

So move over R'n'B – C&G's moving in.

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