Call me The Grinch or call me time-crunched, but unless you're touring, signing or having some tube time, then you're not getting in today's music news column.  It's the week before Christmas, my shopping's not done, the work's piling up and I'm a little lost in the frenzy.

So on that happy holiday note, let's talk touring.  NewSong knows a thing or two about that as they've developed the wildly successful and popular Winter Jam concert series that has been drawing large crowds for the last several years.  The 2005 incarnation kicks off on January 14 in Canton, OH and will continue on through 20+ cities until wrapping up in early March.

Looks like it will be a good show, too, with a line-up including tobyMac, Michael Tait, Building 429, Rachael Lampa, Matthew West and BMX bike stunt team Chaos on Wheels.  Now THAT should keep the kids' attention.  

"This tour is one of the most diverse and affordable shows out there and people continually respond.  We anticipate some of the biggest crowds ever this year," says tour producer Troy VanLiere of VanLiere-Wilcox.  Click here for tour dates and more info.

Okay, so we've crossed off touring from the list.  So what' going on with signing?  I'm so glad you asked.

The creative, the elusive Kevin Max (dc Talk) has just landed an exclusive recording contract with Northern Records.  And the Orange County, Calif. based label couldn't be happier.  "This is a unique opportunity to work with such an accomplished and talented artist," explains Andrew Prickett, who is in charge of production for Northern Records.  "There's no reason to settle for anything less than amazing."

And Kevin sends the love right back … "I have been searching for a label that has both integrity and imagination, and I know I have found it in Northern Records," he says.  "It's exciting to be with a family of people who get behind the music instead of the machine.  I look forward to presenting the public with something that is honest, bold, dramatic and progressive."

No release date has been set for Kevin's first disc on Northern, but recording is scheduled to begin in spring 2005.  Upcoming performance dates for Special K include a gig in Brazil in January, a headlining spot at the Noise Conference in New Zealand in April and a 10-city tour of Europe in May.

Fellow class of 2005 signees, Yellow Second, have also recently landed a deal with a California label, Floodgate Records in Costa Mesa, and will release their national debut, "Altitude," on March 8, 2005.  The power pop band is comprised of Scott Kerr, formerly of Five Iron Frenzy fame, fellow FIF band mate Andy Verdecchio, and Josh Hemingway and Brett Bowden.  Looking forward to hearing their first offering.

And you know who else has swept off the dust and re-emerged with a deal in hand?  Bryan Duncan, that's who.  "One of Christian music's most endearing voices" recently signed an exclusive agreement with TAG Distribution which will distribute his upcoming 60-minute live concert CD and DVD called "Music City Live."