River of Tears

Surrender Hill has explored many sonic nooks and crannies across their six albums. With their seventh album, River of Tears, the Americana duo has produced its grittiest album thus far. They have leaned into rock and soul influences, delved into classic country and western sounds, taken listeners dancing into roadside honky-tonks, and devastated them with heartfelt ballads and love songs.

“It wasn’t intentional, but some of the songs called for an edgier, at times, darker perspective,” says Robin Dean Salmon, who previously spent several years in a rock band signed to a major label and has also produced acts making everything from gospel to metal music. “We ended up exploring a rock & roll edge, balanced equally with tender, Southwestern soul-feeling landscapes.”

For this newest offering, the range of sounds matches the range of emotional experiences. As Afton Seekins Salmon — the other half of the duo and Robin’s wife — points out, those titular tears are both sad and joyous. “I certainly shed a tear when Robin played ‘River of Tears’ for me, a love song about us,” Afton recalls, “and the healing sadness writing ‘Cry Baby’ helped me through a very rough patch.”

“It’s not dark or morbid at all, but it’s very, very reflective of personal relationships and experiences,” Robin says of the album’s subject matter. “This record’s not so much about our relationship, although there are moments” — specifically, the title track and “Holding Me.” Robin wrote the former for Afton, and she wrote the latter for him, both for Valentine’s Day in 2023. “Those two songs, for us, are wonderfully important,” Robin says. “They’re very much from the heart, very honest, and for each other.”

Overall, though, River of Tears “is more about relationships that we have with people in our lives — family and non-family — and places we’ve lived and been, and growth in our personal lives,” Robin says. 
Afton, particularly, was mourning the deaths of two important people in her life while working on the album. It often takes her time to process major life events and distill them into song, but she came home from a childhood friend’s funeral and immediately wrote the aforementioned rocker “Cry Baby.” “It was a healing process for me, big time,” says Afton, who penned more than her usual share of songs on River of Tears. She wasn’t writing as often or as many songs as usual, but, adds Robin, “Every single song she wrote was a winner!”

“Unconditional Life” is another Afton-written cut. It came together while she was sick — so sick she couldn’t even sing — and in only 20 minutes. She was inspired to write it after celebrating her grandparents’ 70th wedding anniversary and her grandmother’s 88th birthday only a few days before her grandmother’s passing.

“My grandmother was one of the toughest women I’ve ever known, and my grandparents had the most incredible love story and commitment and devotion to one another,” Afton says. “It was just such a powerful love story up until the end. The song is just a tribute to them and me trying to follow in their footsteps.”

Surrender Hill recorded River of Tears at Blue Betty Studio in their hometown of Ellijay, GA. Joining  Robin (lead guitar, acoustic, vocals) and Afton (vocals, percussion) in the studio were Jonathan Callicutt (guitar), Matt Crouse (drums), Mike Daly (steel guitar, dobro), Eric Fritsch (organ), Drew Lawson (bass), Kevin Thomas (organ), and Mike Waldron (guitar). Robin produced, engineered, and mixed the album, with Grammy Award-winning engineer Joe Smith doing additional mixing.

As a musical duo, as a romantic couple, and as partners doing life together, Surrender Hill has experienced “unbelievable” growth in recent years, largely due to reflecting on their shared and individual pasts, lives lived with gusto, enriched by adventure in travel, relationships, love, hurt, school, work, art, play, the end of an era through deep loss, not only of loved ones, but of a way of life. The results of that time of reflection are present throughout River of Tears’ 16 songs: a yearning for a lifetime of love, a confession about the inability to outrun your own faults (“Blackbirds Are Black”), a prayer for the power to make your dreams come true (“Get Out of Your Own Way”). For Robin and Afton, the album is a cathartic journey — and they hope it will be for listeners, too.



"Robin Dean Salmon is an anthropologist of sorts. At times living the life of a gypsy, traveling the world, amassing the experiences it would take most several lifetimes to accumulate. From this he has developed an intrinsic understanding of what it means to be human. A base insight that somehow eludes most, perhaps due to lack of awareness or just simple indifference. It is songwriters like Salmon who help us to look at ourselves and this world in which we live with a bit more clarity." -HANNAH CROWELL-

Robin Dean Salmon currently lives in Northern Arizona and has recently Released his 10 album “Blackbird”.

Born in Durban South Africa, Robin Salmon came of age in a disjointed country plagued by violence and political turmoil. His father’s disaccord with the apartheid favoring government led to a pending threat of him becoming a banned person, which at the time carried the sentencing of house arrest that was doggedly enforced. The family fled to America in 1977, settling outside of San Antonio on the largest long horn cattle ranch in the country. Life was reinvented and the way of the rancher instilled in the fabric of young Salmon. Spending the impressionable years of a young man’s life in the Texas hill country in the early 80’s, Salmon’s musical roots were a cross pollination of musical legends Bob Wills, Johnny Cash and Marty Robbins and the contemporaries of punk rock, The Sex Pistols, U2, The Clash and The Ramones. At 15 Salmon got his first guitar, wrote his first song and realized life as a performer was an inescapable dream.

Fresh out of high school Salmon formed the band, See No Evil, which would later prove to be a success for it’s four young members. While the band was living in Austin and playing every obliging hole in the wall, Salmon penned a song for International Youth Year, a festival held by the General Assembly at the United Nations in New York. The opportunity to perform live before the United Nations, and the intoxication of the vitality and grit that was the New York in the 80’s, Salmon and his fellow See No Evil members packed up and moved their outfit to the city. While living in a Greek Community of Queens and surviving on white rice and kool-aid, the band played steady gigs at the infamous CBGB. At one of these late night gigs legendary producer Richard Robinson of Lou Reed and David Johnson notoriety discovered the young musicians. Impressed with the band and particularly Salmon’s songwriting, Robinson secured the band a deal with Epic that would produce two records. 'See No Evil' and 'Songs', both produced by Robinson, were released to rave reviews.

Nominated for 3 prestigious New York Music Awards, the band toured tirelessly until 1992 when Salmon was in a motorcycle accident that nearly ended his life. Faced with months of rehabilitation and an arduous recovery, the New York City winters and brazen population was something Salmon was not eager to endure. A lover of the balmy comforts of the south and her soulful music, he relocated to Atlanta.

The inception of FMG Studios, affectionately named for his dog Fat Muddy George, came from the desire to wear the hat of both recording artist and producer. During FMG studios existence, Salmon produced over 40 records spanning virtually every musical genre from Baptist gospel records to heavy metal. He also released several independent records of his own; a 1994 acoustic album 'Aiming For The Sun' and 1997's 'High Energy Alternative Power Pop' with his then band, Christopher Robin. Evolution as an artist is inevitable and Salmon was no exception with his shift from Punk Rock Manhattanite to the roots infused sound of a Bohemian balladeer. Referencing his Texas roots and country influences, Salmon released 2 albums under the name Jack West, 'Gunslinger' and 'Suicide Alley', both applauded by the critics. Hal Horowitz of Creative Loafing said, “'Gunslinger' fits comfortably into the current crop of alt-country traditionalists”. Heavily influenced by the work of other respected artists, Salmon references Rodney Crowell’s 'Houston Kid' as being a turning point in his musical direction. The honesty of the human condition and rawness of Crowell’s story telling was something that Salmon responded to and worked to incorporate in his own work. Americana music, undecorated and intelligent, was a genre of music that resonated deeply with a South African refugee raised on a Texas Longhorn ranch.

Robin had the good fortune of drawing upon the services of the afore mentioned artist, Rodney Crowell. Collaborating on the track, 'Maybe I Do', featured on the album "Gasoline". Salmon and Crowell have a vocal synergy that produces a beautiful, albeit dismal, account of two people broken by the lonesome struggle to find love. In the words of Rodney Crowell himself, “Robin Salmon is smart, funny, poetic and in possession of a melodic wit. Anyone got a problem with that?” Few would dare disagree.


"One could be forgiven for thinking that singer/songwriter Afton Seekins emerged, fully-formed, straight from the mind of the muse. Afton brings a level of sophistication, maturity, and heartfelt emotion to her songwriting that would be the envy of any writer twice her age. With an undeniable vocal talent in the range of Dolly Parton and Bonnie Raitt, and the poise and presence of one who was born to be on stage, Afton is a creative force that deserves to be heard as well as seen." Paul Koenig, PK Gregory Music

Originally born in Alaska, then moving to Arizona when she was five, Afton spent her childhood traveling back and forth between the two. School years were spent in the frontier town, Camp Verde, in Northern Arizona and summers in the great Halibut fishing town, Homer, located on the Kenai Peninsula in Alaska.  Afton comes from hard working frontier people. One grandfather was a preacher, the other a fisherman. Her mother and father were entrepreneurs who started a water hauling business in Alaska and later a heavy construction business in Arizona. All were people who knew how to live off the land and knew the value of family. Hard work and strong ethics where instilled in Afton Seekins from a very young age.
As a young girl, music and dance became Afton’s true passion. When she wasn’t concentrating on her studies or finishing her daily chores she was singing and dancing. In high school she worked hard and graduated a year early. Immediately, she went to college and after her third year, she realized she wasn't following her heart and decided to make a change. While contemplating her next move, Afton moved back to Alaska and reacquainted herself with the extremes of the great outdoors. Taking risks became just another one of her passions.

With new found courage and direction, Afton moved to New York City to pursue professional dance career. With the aid of diligent perseverance and the ability to quickly grasp what she was learning, she was working professionally within months of her training. She was soon appointed as the Artistic Director of The Hip-Hop Dance Conservatory and began working as the Rehearsal Director/Choreographer for Spotlight Live in Times Square. Her work for Spotlight Live has been featured on many programs including The Today Show, Good Morning America, MTV and VH1 to name a few.

After 8 years in New York City, Afton felt her roots and the inspiration to challenge herself creatively calling her back home. Afton moved back to Arizona in 2010 to concentrate on her other creative calling. That of a singer/songwriter.  She found her personal journal, that had kept her company for so many years, was also her foundation as a songwriter. She taught herself to play guitar and within months was performing her songs in local venues. Afton soon found herself surrounded by local accomplished musicians who helped teach and nurture her growth as a singer/songwriter.