CD Review: Tim Surrett (self-titled)

Overall Grade: A minus

The Overall Grade is computed from…
30% Material Grade: A minus…All these songs are strong, but a couple feel like they belong on a different CD (and for good reason).
30% Performance Grade: A…Surrett is in fine vocal form. He also plays at least five different instruments on this recording
30% Production Grade: A…Producers are doing something right when you hear elements you hadn’t noticed previously on repeat listens.
10% Presentation Grade: B minus…The artwork is pretty good, but more creativity could have gone into the graphic design. Also, I had to count off an extra bit since Surrett’s own name is spelled wrong in one spot.

Label: Crossroads Records
Producers: Jeff Collins and Tim Surrett
Website: www.timsurrett.com

Song Titles: “Nobody’s Fault But Mine,” “Wish You Were Here,” “See What The Lord Has Done,” “Had It Not Been,” “Headin’ Home,” “Try A Little Kindness,” “He Looked Beyond The Cross,” “The Well Of Grace,” “Hold To God’s Unchanging Hand,” “You Never Mentioned Him To Me”

“Nobody’s Fault But Mine” sets the tone for Tim Surrett’s new self-titled CD with a Delta blues bass groove juxtaposed against a Motown inspired electric keyboard, Surrett’s bluegrass tinged vocals, a wailing mouth harp, and a soulful female background singer. It all adds up to a rootsy sound. For the most part, the rest of the CD follows through in a similar musical vein. There’s a couple of notable sidetracks, but fortunately not enough to completely derail the musical concept established by the first track.

You might think one exception would be “Wish You Were Here,” but actually, the combination of acoustic instruments used for Surrett’s signature song matches up well with the other cuts. “See What The Lord Has Done” is the sort of combination you might get if the group Alabama collaborated with the Boston Pops on the music while Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder provided vocals. It’s probably my favorite track, just because styles I’d expect to contradict have been made to work together so effectively. “Had It Not Been” is a traditional Country style interpretation with piano and steel guitar driving the accompaniment. A slow blues groove returns for “Headin’ Home,” with an organ providing support and a nice electric guitar solo leading into the final chorus. Surrett roughes up his vocals a bit just before stacking up a sweet contrasting vocal chord to conclude the track. Next up is a familiar Glen Campbell song called “Try A Little Kindness” that has a timeless, Americana sound.

Tracks seven and eight are what you might call “budget savers,” since they were already recorded and in the can long before the other songs on this CD were chosen. You’ll recognize them immediately if you own a copy of the Kingsmen CD titled The Past Is Past. “He Looked Beyond The Cross” is exactly the same and “The Well Of Grace” just has Surrett’s vocals in place of the lead track Jason Selph originally sang. The lush orchestration and anthem format of “He Looked Beyond The Cross” clashes with the rest of the CD. “The Well Of Grace” is closer to the acoustic musical concept, but it also falls short of being rootsy like the rest of the recording. It occured to me that if Surrett was going to lift tracks from The Past Is Past, “The Ole Crossroads” and “The Love Of God Forever Shall Remain” should have been more obvious choices.

Surrett ends on a strong note with “Hold To God’s Unchanging Hand” and an a cappella take on “You Never Mentioned Him To Me.” All in all, this self-titled solo CD is very strong, especially when you consider Surrett’s bouts with vocal problems that ultimately forced him to give up the demands of the Kingsmen touring schedule last year. Musical detours aside, I’m particularly impressed by the way Surrett has begun the process of carving out his own unique niche in the Southern Gospel market with this combination of acoustic instrumentation, blues rhythms and soulful singing.

Category CD Reviews

David Bruce Murray

David Bruce Murray is a church music director in Ellenboro, NC. He is the author of Murray's Encyclopedia Of Southern Gospel Music and the owner of both SGHistory.com and MusicScribe.com. David plays piano for Southern Sounds Quartet and the Foothills Community Choir.

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