Producers: Michael Sykes & Aaron Crabb
Label: Difference Media
Song titles: (Disc One) I Wouldn’t Take Nothin’ For My Journey Now; Show Me Your Way; Heaven Is; The Son Shines Down On Me; Who Am I; Go Tell It On The Mountain; Coming Home; Softly And Tenderly; The Inviting Christ; My Savior’s Love; (Disc Two) Sweeter As The Days Go By; You Are So Beautiful; What a Wonderful World; Glorify; Dig a Little Deeper in God’s Love; Going Home; Since Jesus Came Into My Heart; In The Valley He Restoreth My Soul; Hold On; Smile
Southern Gospel fans who are avid Youtube watchers will no doubt remember a quartet out of Cornerstone Church singing “Sweeter As The Days Go By.” That quartet, made up of tenor Matthew Hagee, lead Aaron Crabb, baritone Michael Sykes, and bass Tim Duncan, was branded “Canton Junction.” With Tim Duncan’s return to the quartet world, and a big, exciting sound from the group, that video created a buzz that carried all the way through to the announcement of their debut project. One can infer that the group comes out of the gate with a “go big or go home” mentality, as their first release contains two discs with ten songs each.
The “go big” thing really works well with the group’s vocals, as they excel on the upbeat, country-flavored tracks found throughout the discs, one of which was already mentioned; I appreciated the fact that they used the audio from their live debut of “Sweeter As The Days Go By.” The studio cuts like “I Wouldn’t Take Nothin’ For My Journey Now,” “Go Tell It On The Mountain,” “Dig A Little Deeper,” “Since Jesus Came Into My Heart” and “Hold On” are also done in that style, and the quartet has a full-bodied presence in their collective sound that lends itself to such songs. This “full” sound also carries over to the old, quiet Rambos song “In The Valley He Restoreth My Soul,” where the vocals have a sound reminiscent of the first lineup of Mercy’s Mark.
Their softer, quieter side is also brought to bear on songs like “Show Me Your Way,” and their arrangement of the hymn “Softly and Tenderly,” which features leading vocals by Hagee that are a highlight of the project. Another standout in that vein comes in the form of “The Son Shines Down On Me,” a 1970s Oak Ridge Boys song originally delivered by Noel Fox that is turned into a Tim Duncan vehicle with a 50s movie soundtrack feel.
While there is certainly some solid work done here, I found the pacing of the project overall to drag somewhat. In between the upbeat numbers and some of the stronger slower songs, there were a bunch more slow songs, mostly consisting of hymns and classics, that seem to all run together. Individually, they are strong renditions, but the arrangements tend to not break the mold set by other versions, and they are weakened by being placed one right after the other. I also found myself hitting the skip button on several songs; the Praise & Worship style of “Glorify” was a bit too repetitive, and of the secular covers on the second disc, the only one there that seemed at home in this body of work was “What A Wonderful World,” the Louis Armstrong classic that is a Duncan feature here.
Although this project was “middle-of-the-road” for me, there are enough strong selections here to keep me coming back for more listens. Canton Junction is a solid quartet with a tight sound that has a great amount of potential, and while song selection and pacing could have been improved, this is a debut recording that proves that to be true. I am looking forward to hearing what the group records as they build off of the foundation that this self-titled project lays. Canton Junction receives 3.5 stars.