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Motown Records has announced a new Motown Gospel label, and Detroit native and veteran gospel star CeCe Winans is the label’s first signing. Winans’ new album is slated for release early next year and will be her first record in five years.

Also on the roster are Kierra (Kiki) Sheard, Smokie Norful, Tye Tribbett and Tasha Cobbs.

In bearing the Motown name, the label nods to a city that “has always been a hotbed for gospel music,” said Barry Weiss, chairman and CEO, Universal Music Group East Coast Label Group. Weiss said the new label will often tap the promotional resources of Motown Records, whose current roster includes Ne-Yo, Erykah Badu and Kem.

The venture comes half a century after Motown’s first foray into gospel music, with the short-lived Divinity Records in 1962.

But the new Motown Gospel is already a prime-time player, marshaling an array of top executives in New York and Nashville and helmed by a pair of industry veterans: Universal’s Weiss — whose Island Def Jam group includes Motown Records — and Bill Hearn, president of EMI’s Christian music arm.

“It’s hugely significant for Barry Weiss and Bill Hearn to come together,” said Jackie Patillo, executive director of the Gospel Music Association. “This just strengthens the reach for gospel music.”

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