By PHIL SWEETLAND
Music and Radio contributor, The New York Times
NASHVILLE - Arkin Terrell has many talents. He's a lay preacher at his church in Mississippi, and one of the most gifted building framers in the Southeast.
Then there is his singing.
Terrell, as this debut album shows, is one of the most promising newcomers to arrive on the Christian music scene in years. Working with the A-list production team of Chip and Billy Davis in Nashville, and recording tunes by many of Music Row's elite Christian and Country songwriters, Terrell has unleashed a powerhouse debut CD.
With the backing and faith of Jim Murphy, the Arkin Terrell project has become a reality, and soon figures to be impacting Christian Radio, Christian coffeehouses, and churches nationwide.
From the very opening track, Michael Puryear and James Thiele's "Strength To Surrender", the listener knows there is something very different in these recordings.
There is nothing plastic fantastic or fake in the tracks, unlike many of today's Country and Christian records where the producers and engineers are in part employed to cover up for the lack of talent in the vocalist or the lack of strength of the material.
Here, however, everything is real. The horns? They're real. The arrangements, on the strings, horns, and vocals? All crisp, precise, and punchy. And Terrell's reading of the amazing lyrics? Simply sensational, and amazingly versatile on material that covers numerous genres and tempos.
Billy and Chip Davis, the Row's top brother duo and the finest family combination of producer and singer in Country, shine forth in "Prints of Peace". This is where Chip's songwriting passion for ¾ Gospel, an unusual tempo for sacred music, becomes irresistible.
The waltz tempo, combined with syncopated pickups in the accompaniment and the natural swing which the tempo gives the vocals, should make "Prints of Peace" a wonderful Radio song.
"The River (Clean Slate)"has an almost swamp-rock feel; while "Did You Hear Me Say Goodbye", a musical conversation between Jesus and some of his disciples, may be the most powerful track in its spirituality.
Few mainstream Country or Christian albums, even on major labels, could boast the roster of A-team session players on this indy project. To name just a few of them, keyboard wizard John Hobbs and guitar/production sensation Bobby Terry play on "Prints of Peace", and the strings are arranged by Steve Mauldin.
It would be easy to go through each track in detail in this review, but that does the listener no good. Here's far better advice: Listen to the entire CD. Several times.
Only then can one begin to understand the Christian gifting of this very unique new talent called Arkin Terrell.