Harvey Watkins Jr.
Redefining The Tradition
For nearly 40 years, The Canton Spirituals have blessed thousands across
the nation with their unique harmonies and heartfelt songs. Within
the last 5 years, the quartet has captured the attention of the Gospel
music industry. Since their hit 1993 album Live In Memphis, group
Harvey Watkins, Jr. has lead The Cantons to national prominence with a
that reaches all demographics. Several albums later,
The Cantons continue to merge traditional quartet vocals with contemporary
and infectious music with their latest project The Live Experience
— interview by Gerard Bonner —
"Our group is different than any other quartet out there," says
Watkins. "We have our own style. Our band is made of young musicians
and we feed off of each other." With Watkins being the link to the original
members of the group (his
oft-sung about 'daddy' was founder Harvey Watkins Sr.), the other blood connection is
his nephew, lead guitarist DeWayne Watkins. This careful blend of seasoned experience with
that surges from youth, makes for a very engaging musical ministry.
The new album has all the hallmarks of another Canton power project. Like all good quartet
recordings, this one was recorded live. Jackson, Mississippi was the location (at the Greater
Bethlehem Temple Apostolic Church), and
the 15-track project bears witness to the energy and enthusiasm of both
The Cantons and the capacity hometoen crowd that crammed the church.
Notable is the inclusion of the cut, "I Made It", which pulls co-veteran Albertina Walker
into the vocal mix.
The relatively recent rise to national and international stardom
has been a humbling experience for the group. "It's all been very
flattering. However, we ask the Lord to guide our steps and keep
us humble. We can forget our focus if we're not careful. So we spend
lots of time in prayer and making sure that we put God first," states
The singer, songwriter, and producer loves performing and seeing
people blessed by the Spirit of God. In doing so, Watkins notes
the many challenges that encounter Gospel music in this new year.
"The toughest part of the ministry is to reach as many people
possible. There are so many avenues now available to us such
as TV and radio," states Watkins. "It's also time for artists
to come together. People need to see that artists are united in
working together to win the world for Christ."
The Cantons have been known to reach audiences of all ages at their
concerts. However, Watkins takes no issue with those who don't
enjoy quartets. "I never am offended when someone says that they
don't like a quartet. I believe that when a group performs that
the people should see the Jesus in you. If we stop lifting our
problems and start lifting Jesus, He'll draw the people," proclaims Watkins.
In reaching a diverse audience and embracing a more contemporary
sound, The Cantons are quite comfortable with those who believe
that their music has strayed from the traditional path. "People
must understand that different people do different things.
Folks have different works and can each carry the anointing,"
states Watkins. "Everyone needs to recognize those artists who
have an anointing and get out of their way. There are people that
The Cantons can't reach that Fred Hammond and Kirk Franklin can
reach. The church needs to respect that."
While uncertain of their immediate future, Watkins looks for
God to be with them and give them direction. "We just want to
keep our focus," he says. "Anyway that God blesses,
I'll be satisfied."
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