Singing Praise of Mike Farris
Gospel rocker returns for SxSE show Dec. 4
I’ve been following Mike Farris’ career since I saw his no- holds-barred show at the Myrtle Beach Train Depot in May 2008. Today, I’m excited to report that he’ll be back for another South By Southeast performance at the Depot on Saturday, Dec. 4.
Mike’s road to success has presented him with many obstacles to overcome. Probably in response to his parents’ divorce, he began using both drugs and alcohol while still a child, and almost died from an overdose at the tender age of 21.
After recovering, he went on to form the Screamin’ Cheetah Wheelies, a southern rock & boogie band based in Nashville. They were signed by Atlantic Records and enjoyed what they refer to in the biz as a “sustained success.” A self-titled debut album in 1994 reached #40 on the Billboard Heatseekers chart. Subsequent singles and albums brought the rockers more success.
The talented vocalist would also serve as frontman for Stevie Ray Vaughan’s backing band, Double Trouble.
For Mike Farris, this wasn’t all good news. Easy access to drugs and alcohol was wreaking havoc on his personal life. With help from his family and his church, he was able to break away from a life of addiction. In 2002, he released a solo album titled Goodnight Sun. He was on a positive path.
Oct. 31, 2007 would prove to be a monumental turning point for Farris.
He had been scheduled to perform at a Porter Wagoner tribute during the Americana Music Conference. Sadly, Wagoner passed away on Oct. 28 and the tribute became a eulogy. A young Mike Farris walked on stage, sat down with his guitar and proceeded to bring a hush over the entire room with his achingly soulful rendition of Wagoner’s “Green Green Grass of Home.” The clip went viral on YouTube, and when Mike released his Gospel-based recording Salvation In Lights in June of 2007, little pockets of folks in the know all around the country were waiting for it.
Since releasing his benchmark recording, Mike has played the monster South By Southwest, Austin City Limits Festival Bonnaroo, and the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival. Response has been the same: people are speechless with delight.
And the kudos keep coming in.
In 2008, Mike received the American Music Award for New/Emerging Artist of the Year. In 2009, his next CD, SHOUT! Live earned a Dove Award for Best Traditional Gospel album of the year.
Singer/songwriter Buddy Miller has said, “Mike Farris has enough heart, soul, and power to light up a city. He mixes up the elements and turns them into something new, beautiful, and uniquely his own.”
From Peter Cooper of The Tennessean magazine comes: “It’s inspiring to hear so many people with glowing things to say about something, especially when that thing is too gritty and hard to define for flavor-of-the-month status. But it’s more inspiring to hear Farris sing. He’s one of the most dynamic, convincing talents to emerge from Nashville in years, and his Salvation in Lights album sounds like the gospel truth.”
Roots/blues musician Delbert McClinton, who welcomes Mike Farris to the Blues Cruise every year, said, “Mike Farris is magic – The Rejuvenator! You gotta see it to believe it!”
His most recent accomplishment is The Night The Cumberland Came Alive, a six-track charity recording that is already receiving rave reviews. I haven’t heard the EP yet, so I’m including this from Mike’s website:
“Mike Farris who recently was honored with a Dove Award for his 2009 SHOUT! Live release wanted to give back to his hometown who suffered during the May 2010 flood in Nashville. This six-song charity EP was recorded at the historic Downtown Presbyterian Church in one afternoon and proceeds will be used to help flood victims via the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee. The Night The Cumberland Came Alive features an all-star cast of musicians including: Sam Bush, Kenny Vaughan (Marty Stuart), Ketch Secor and Gill Landry from Old Crow Medicine Show, Byron House (Robert Plant), as well as Ann, Regina and Alfreda McCrary (The McCrary Sisters), Derrek Phillips and Eric Holt from Farris’ own Roseland Rhythm Revue.
The title track’s lyrics deal directly with the flood, and Farris penned “Dear Lazarus” along with Ketch Secor just days before the recording. Musically it is in keeping with the old roots Gospel flavor that Farris’ has been known for on previous releases but with a more blues and country feel.
“Stylistically, pre-war American music has long been a passion of mine,” Farris says of the project. “Before the flood, we’d been searching for songs that would evoke the struggle and the victory of the working class, a sound rising up out of flesh and bone, of spit and spirit. But then, as a city, we were hit square in the gut by this unbelievable flood. And that sound meshed with the spirit of resurrection we saw rise up all over this area. When we gathered in that historic church to lay it all down, what happened was beyond our imaginations.”
You need to experience the power of Mike Farris. You will be nothing short of amazed!
The Skinny On SxSE
South By Southeast is a nonprofit music organization formed in 2003 by a bunch of Myrtle Beach music lovers (including the late, great Jeff Roberts) who decided they wanted to preserve and promote American music not heard on mainstream radio outlets or performed in traditional venues. The result has been an incredible “listening room” that not only serves up some of the most amazing music you’ll ever hear, but also a complimentary feast of casseroles, pizzas, homemade desserts, wine, beer and soft drinks.
Here’s just a smattering of the musicians they’ve brought to town: Justin Townes Earle, Randall Bramblett Band, Scott Miller, Stoll Vaughn, Robbie Fulks, Verlon Thompson, Wendell Mathews, Webb Wilder, the Susan Marshall Band, Carolina Chocolate Drops, Jumper Cables, Diesel, Danger Muffin, Tommy Womack, Will Kimbrough, David Olney, Ericson Holt Band, Harry Manx and Bonnie Bishop.
Upcoming shows include Charleston’s rockin’ Rev. Johnny Mac & the Booty Ranch on Jan. 15, 2011 and the Randall Bramblett Band on March 5, 2011, giving us another taste of their first class blues, jazz, and southern rock.
Tickets are $25 ($20 members) and the good news is that SxSE has finally been granted 501 (c) (3) status, so the I.R.S. now recognizes your charitable gifts and donations as such. YAY!
For tickets or more information, shoot an email with your name, number of tickets needed and your membership status to: email@example.com. The Music Feast starring Mike Farris will be at the historic Myrtle Beach Train Depot, 851 Broadway, Myrtle Beach, S.C. Feasting begins at 6 p.m. and Mike Farris takes the stage at 7 p.m.
Trust the Frog. He hasn’t disappointed me yet!
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