Reviews

Surrender Hill’s A Whole Lot of Freedom


By Brian Rock

Husband and wife duo, Surrender Hill, put a whole lot of work into their fourth album, A Whole Lot of Freedom. The album is an ambitious, eighteen song exploration of roots music and realized dreams. With plenty of minor keys, yearning fiddle strains and gorgeous vocal harmonies, Surrender Hill create a sumptuous Americana dreamscape.

Husband, Robin Dean Salmon and wife, Afton Seekins beautifully blend their voices in sonic synergy like fellow Americana musical couples, The Grahams and Brigitte DeMeyer & Will Kimbrough. Singing songs about chasing dreams while holding on to love, they combine personal, Guy Clark style lyrics with lush, Roseanne Cash influenced musical arrangements.

Surrender Hill uses Country Noir arrangements on “Turn This Train Around” to document their Eastern migration from California to Georgia. Singing, “There’s a woman next to me on the cold, hard ground; she’s a peaceful place in a hard luck town; and I feel no need to turn this train around,” they recall their commitment to follow their dream through the hard times. “Wanderer” and “Waiting On A Dream” echo the dream-chasing theme, with the latter celebrating it culmination: “Now we write our songs in the kitchen surrounded by generations on the wall.” They acknowledge that sharing the dream makes it even more meaningful.

They share the love behind the dream in the modern Country ballad, “I’m Gonna Get It Right.” Capturing the dynamic spark of love-at-first-sight from both the man’s and woman’s perspective, they sing, “When she came walking in like a sunny day, all the weight just floated away. Now I’m not feeling the rain… I stepped through that old side door, numb with my head to the floor. He lifted my gaze with a smile.” The tender “Lucky Star” uses evocative violin strains to sing love’s praises. “Beautiful Wren” incorporates Patsy Cline piano progressions to make a metaphor of love: “Beautiful Wren tapped on our window pane, said ‘Open your heart and let love shine’… the songbird’s gonna teach us to fly.” The song’s impact becomes even greater when you realize it is dedicated to their baby boy, Wren.

An impeccably produced album, the subtle touches of violin, piano, organ, harmonica, and electric and steel guitar add texture and depth to the acoustic arrangements without competing against their inherent rhythms. From the Celtic undertones of “Winter’s End,” to the Roseanne Cash inspired “Broken Down Car,” to the musical influence of The Band in “Chase Me Down,” to the anthemic, “A Whole Lot Of Freedom,” every note of every instrument works in perfect harmony to match and enhance the emotion of every lyric. With its uplifting lyrics and melodic arrangements, “A Whole Lot of Freedom” is a whole lot of good music.

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Brian Rock

Brian Rock

Brian was raised gypsy style, moving every other year until well after college. As friendships proved to be temporary, Brian found a constant companion in music, wearing the grooves off Beatles and Dylan albums before moving on to Lyle Lovett and Dwight Yokam. Living so often in flux, he has come to value music and lyrics of lasting quality. Not moved by trends or fashion, he is drawn to timeless lyrics and soulful rhythms. Although now settled down, Brian still expresses his gypsy spirit through his writing. He has co-written songs with musician friends he’s met along the way, including several contributions to the 2012 ICMA Album of the Year, Family Album. Brian also writes children’s books and poems, including the Children’s Book Council featured title, The Deductive Detective.
Brian Rock

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