By Gina Malone
Tim Surrett, bass player and vocalist for Balsam Range, says the new album Aeonic may be the best collection of songs the band has ever produced. “There are a lot of original songs that were written for the band by our great songwriter friends, but I think my favorite may be the Beatles cover (“If I Needed Someone”). I’ve been wanting to do that song for years.”
Balsam Range musicians Buddy Melton, Darren Nicholson, Marc Pruett, Caleb Smith and Surrett have been playing together since 2007, becoming a band, Surrett says, “almost accidentally” when they all found themselves back in Haywood County at the same time. “We got together just to jam a little bit and it was pretty good,” he says. “We got together a second time and decided to go play a show that Marc had been contacted about. We didn’t even have a name so we just made something up and went and played. The crowd loved it and we never looked back.” Last year the band was named International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) Entertainer of the Year, and Melton and Surrett were named IBMA Male Vocalist of the Year and IBMA Bass Player of the Year, respectively.
“Progressively traditional bluegrass” is how Surrett jokingly refers to Balsam Range’s sound. “All of us are heavily influenced by the music of Haywood County and Western North Carolina in general,” he says. “All of us grew up surrounded by the mountain music and dance culture.”
Aeonic is the chart-topping band’s ninth album and has as its cover a painting titled Inner Workings by artist Nancy Hilliard Joyce, who has worked with the band on other projects. Their first collaboration, a painting of a full moon over the Memphis skyline, graced the cover of the 2015 album Five. “The connection between visual and musical arts has always seemed like an organic overlap to me,” Joyce says. “I seem to be most fully immersed within a painting when listening to music.” Of working with the band, she says, “Our collective vision seems to align when it comes to the collaborative process and I’m hopeful our friendship and working relationship continues for many years to come.”
Fans of Balsam Range span all ages, and Surrett hopes the songs on Aeonic are a reflection of that wide appeal. As for their music, he says, “nothing is off-limits, whether it’s Bill Monroe or the Beatles. Hopefully, this album will showcase that point.”
To learn more about Balsam Range and upcoming tour dates, visit BalsamRange.com. Aeonic is available at streaming outlets, including iTunes and Amazon, and on the website.