Rating: 5 stars (of 5)

Average Song Rating: 4.2 stars (of 5)

Song List: I Will Trade The Old Cross For a Crown; Things That I’m Seeing; Greater Miracle; I’m Going There; He’ll Never Forsake; I’ll See You Home; Tell Me Who; Whenever, Wherever, Whatever; Take a Little Look; Celebrating Resurrection Morning; Hallelujah For the Cross.

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Cross 4 Crowns was formed by baritone Allen Leath in 2003 and toured regionally for two years before making the decision to try to go national in September 2005. Some of their first major attention on a national level came when former Dixie Echoes tenor Dallas Rogers joined the group, a story I broke this March. (Rogers had also performed with the Journeymen Quartet, Heirline, and the Toney Brothers.) Other group members are lead singer Davey McCammon and bass singer Justin Terry.

The group signed with Crossroads Music in May; Turning Point is their major-label debut. It is an impressive project, period, and for a debut…let’s just say it’s the most impressive debut in recent memory. Arthur Rice produced the album; his touch is evident in the group’s arrangements and harmonies, which give the group a sound closer to the Kingdom Heirs than any other group.

While several of the tracks on the project were previously recorded, the opening track (“I Will Trade The Old Cross for a Crown”) is probably the only song instantly familiar to enough Southern Gospel fans to be labeled a “classic.” Most of the other previously recorded songs would be more towards being classified “forgotten gems.”

“I Will Trade The Old Cross for a Crown” makes a good choice for an opening track, introducing the group’s sound. It also emphasizes their group name (Cross 4 Crowns…get it?) This rendition is slower than normal but brings out the group’s solid harmonies.

The group is at its strongest on convention-style quartet songs, and the project has several: “Things That I’m Seeing,” “I’m Going There,” “Take a Little Look,” and “Tell Me Who.” “Things that I’m Seeing” is a song the Kingsmen recorded over three decades ago (in 1976, on It Made News In Heaven). After hearing Cross 4 Crowns’ catchy rendition, it seems surprising that there have been (to my knowledge) no other renditions of the song since its debut.

“I’m Going There” is a song the group has apparently already sent to radio; it provides opportunities for several group members to take solos.

Squire Parsons’ “Take a Little Look” provides another opportunity for bass singer Justin Terry to shine. He has a surprisingly mature voice for being (according to the web bio) only 24 years old. His voice sounds somewhat like Glenn Dustin’s, with (perhaps thanks again to Arthur Rice) some Jeff Chapman-style phrasings also in evidence. His range is quite low; he hits low A several times on “Things that I’m Seeing,” a low G or two on “Take a Little Look,” and several confident low F-sharps on “I’m Going There.”

Terry and Dallas Rogers are probably the two strongest vocal talents in the group. Unfortunately, Dallas Rogers only gets one feature, “I’ll See You Home.” The song appears to have been added at the last minute; the final project has eleven songs, while the pre-release on the group’s website listed ten, omitting this one. [EDIT, 11/8/10: The link is broken and has been removed.]

The project has several other good mid-tempo songs and ballads, such as “Hallelujah For the Cross” and “Whenever, Wherever, Whatever.” Buy on this project, it’s the convention songs most likely to get audiences to their feet.

Care is evident in this project. The mixing and mastering is impeccable. The harmonies are arranged well. Bottom line: Vocally, musically, and lyrically, this project shines.

My working rating on the draft was 4.5 stars. It’s pretty unheard of for a reviewer serious about ratings to give a group’s debut project five stars. But this project kept drawing me back again and again; by the time I got to the project’s tenth spin in a week, I decided it was worth that fifth star. Fans of Kindgom Heirs-style quartet singing should love this group.