3:1 CD Review: Canton Junction (Canton Junction)

Canton Junction - Canton Junction3:1 Reviews offer three highlights of an album and one area that could have been improved.

1: Production Quality: This two-disc, twenty-song set sounds incredible. Perhaps it stands to reason that baritone Michael Sykes, who has produced many of the Gaither Vocal Band’s most-acclaimed releases, would bring top-tier production quality to his own group’s album. He does; track and production quality is every bit as strong as you would find on a Gaither Vocal Band release.

What might be surprising is that the vocal performances are actually stronger. Tenor Matt Hagee and lead singer Aaron Crabb both come from family group backgrounds (the John Hagee Family and the Crabb Family, respectively), but both adapt amazingly well to the male quartet setting. Bass Tim Duncan has an almost unrivaled quartet resumé for someone his age; after spending three years as Poet Voices’ final bass singer (1999-2002), he spent eight years with Ernie Haase & Signature Sound (2002-January 2011). When it comes to ensemble sound, Canton Junction is easily in the top five in Southern Gospel (perhaps top three), and also easily the strongest on the progressive end of the spectrum.

In other words, in every aspect except song selection—an area where Gaither has an indisputable advantage by being the most prestigious Southern Gospel artist on the road today—Canton Junction is on par with or even stronger than the Gaither Vocal Band. That is no small feat for a brand-new group on its debut project.

2: Rusty Goodman remakes: Since Michael Sykes is Rusty Goodmans’ son-in-law (he’s married to Rusty’s daughter Tanya Goodman Sykes), it might not be terribly surprising that the album includes two Rusty Goodman songs, “I Wouldn’t Take Nothing For My Journey Now” and “Who Am I.”

What might be more surprising is what he’s done with them. He has transformed both songs into straight-ahead, in-the-groove, driving quartet harmony songs. They sound like the versions he’s been waiting for a chance to make. He’s honed his skills producing the likes of the Gaither Vocal Band and the Oak Ridge Boys, and he uses those skills to reinterpret these songs for a new generation of fans.

3: Sweeter As The Days Go By: This live version of the song that got it all started for Canton Junction is a sonic delight. Canton Junction’s first (public, released) appearance was with this video—a performance so strong that it earned more than 80,000 views in a matter of months, practically unheard-of numbers in Southern Gospel. It was a pleasant surprise to hear the live version included here.

:1: You can have too much of a good thing: It is entirely understandable why the group recorded twenty tracks. Most groups need that many in their repertoire for live concerts. They probably figured that if they were going to record that many tracks anyhow, they may as well put them all into a two-CD set. Songs like “Dig a Little Deeper,” “Softly and Tenderly,” and “Go, Tell it on the Mountain” will certainly have their place in the live concert setting, but seem out of place here. But had Canton Junction selected the strongest ten or twelve tracks, this would have easily been a five-star recording.

In fact, SouthernGospelBlog.com has only handed out one five-star rating this year so far—to this album of Stamps classics. Had Canton Junction whittled the list down to the ten or twelve strongest songs, this album would have easily been the strongest recording of the year, to date.

Traditional or Progressive: Middle-of-the-road to progressive.

Album rating: 4.5 stars.

Credits: Group members: Matthew Hagee (tenor), Aaron Crabb (lead), Michael Sykes (baritone), Tim Duncan (bass). Produced by Michael Sykes and Aaron Crabb. Mixed by: Pete Greene, Ronnie Brookshire, Steve Allen, and Nathan Zwald. Mastered by: Glenn Meadows. Engineers: David Young, Steve Allen, Robert Smith, Ron Fairchild, Brandon Shattuck, Mark Drury, Mark Capps, Nathan Zwald, Pete Greene, Grayson Rogers, Kendall Ryan, Marshall Young, Cary Smith, Jake Burns, Bob Clark. Assistant Engineers: Taylor Pollert, John Furr, Josh Papp. Digital Editing: Robert Smith, David Young, David Ponder. Recorded at: Difference Media, San Antonio, TX; Cornerstone Church, San Antonio, TX; Square One Studio, Franklin, TN; Sony Tree, Nashville, TN; Beech Creek Studios, Nashville, TN; The Tracking Room, Nashville, TN; Loud Recording, Nashville, TN; SoundShop Recording, Nashville, TN; Classic Recording, Franklin, TN; Sound Emporium, Nashville, TN. Piano, Keyboards: Gary Prim, Gordon Mote. B3 Organ: Gordon Mote, Justin Ellis. Drums: Steve Brewster, Scott Williamson, John Hammond. Bass: Duncan Mullins, Mark Hill. Acoustic Guitar: Joel Key, John Willis. Electric Guitar: James Mitchell, Kelly Back, Jeff King. Steel Guitar and Dobro: Steve Hinson. Harmonica: Randy Miller. Fiddle, Mandolin, Banjo: Bruce Watkins. Violins: Pam Sixfin, Conni Ellisor, Alan Umstead, David Davidson, Kathy Umstead, Karen Winkelman. Violas: Jim Grosjean, Elizabeth Lamb. Cellos: Carol Rabinowitz, Julie Tanner. Strings Arranged and Conducted by: Steve W. Mauldin. Strings Performed by: The Nashville String Machine, Carl Gorodetzky (Contractor).

Song List: DISC 1: 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 2: 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.

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22 Letters to the Editor

Southern Gospel Journal welcomes letters to the editor. We will post the most thoughtful and insightful submissions. Ground rules: Don't attack or belittle groups or fellow posters, or advance heresies rejected by orthodox Christianity. Do keep comments positive, constructive, and on topic.
  1. This might be the album release I’m having the hardest time waiting for! These guys have something special. Can’t wait to see what lies ahead for them!

    • Yes, they do have something special. Just speaking theoretically, taking the four component voices, one might not have anticipated a sound that forms a cohesive unit – but it’s surprisingly good.

      • Agreed. I was very surprised when I saw their first YouTube post. Been a fan ever since. 🙂

    • When does this release?

  2. Daniel,

    Can’t wait to hear this recording! One minor note–our album was a feature of Stamps Quartet Music Company classics, not Stamps-Baxter… Just a minor thing… 🙂

  3. let me know by e-mail when cd is ready. thanks

    canton junction cd……………….

    • Carl – sorry, I have so many other things to remember that I don’t think I could promise to add that to my list; I would probably forget. If you would, check their Facebook page or their website; I’m sure they’ll announce it there. It should be within a month or less.

  4. Give them 5 stars!! Brother D if this album has only one shortfall, and that being a few extra songs that have a PURPOSE for live moments, if that be true, then I consider that brilliant on CJs part……

    Just saying… Great review and I’m really happy for our field to have this kind of quality.

    Hope to see you at NQC.

    Michael Booth

    • Thanks, and I hope to see you at NQC, too!

  5. What do you think of the song, “What a wonderful world”? I didn’t think that fit very well, but then again I only heard a sample.

    • well in my opinion what a wonderful world, fits in good. Canton Junction is a new sound all the way around and what an amazing sound it is with a group of older songs, the way this album was put together is amazing, my uncle Tim is getting better every day and this album will prove it. when u listen to this album pay attention to all the singers and the message of the songs but also pay attention to my uncle tims vocals! they blend so well and have great and powerful solos in this album as well! 🙂

      • Oh I love Tim. The first gospel song I heard was “Glory to God in the Highest” and I instantly fell in love with his voice. In fact, he brought me to love the sounds of southern gospel. So please don’t take like I was insulting him. That being said, I was just a little confused as to why that song appeared on the CD. It sounded wonderful but didn’t really seem to fit in with the song selection. I wish he were my uncle!

  6. Wow I have waited (very impatiently I might add) for this cd to come out. I was so excited to hear Tim Duncan again, he was the reason I really loved EHSS. I can’t believe how well theses guys blend especially since they are not familial singers. They may blend better than family even! I have almost driven my husband crazy because that’s all I have listened to. Now if they would just start tourning and come to New Mexico! Keep up the great job!!!

  7. This album was released on Sept. 4th. 🙂
    Great review Daniel.

  8. I should have added its available on Amazon, Itunes, or get a physical copy here:


  9. I love the CD. These guys really have a great sound. It seems like they have been together forever. I love the older songs. God bless these guys and their familes. I just love to hear them sing. If you don’t have a copy of the CD, I encourage you to get one. Exceptional.

  10. I need to get the CD Canton Junction.

  11. Love the cd.

  12. Hi, I got my cd yesterday and have played it for hours. I love every song on it. I can’t wait for the group to start touring close to my area in Indiana. God bless the group and their families.