DarielB – Flying Under the Radar

Singing Praise of Mike Farris

Posted in Live Performance Previews/Reviews by darielb on November 17, 2010

Mike Farris & the Roseland Rhythm Revue (Photo Ed Rode)

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:

A portion of proceeds from the new EP is going to Nashville flood victims.

“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!

Mike Farris at the SxSE show 2008. Trust the frog!

For tickets or more information, shoot an email with your name, number of tickets needed and your membership status to: southxsoutheast@aol.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!


Shout! About Mike Farris

Posted in CD Picks by darielb on May 19, 2010

I’m a live music junkie.

There’s something so exciting about a live performance   – where decisions have to be spontaneous and there isn’t the luxury of “fixing it tomorrow.”

To witness the synergy between players, to be part of the emotion, the energy  and  the bond between artist and audience … to be in the house  when an artist pushes himself so far that the talent just erupts … For me, there’s nothing like it. And there’s no one who delivers like Mike Farris.

Mike Farris delivers a rockin’ gift of gospel. “When I’m singing this music, my voice just gets stronger and stronger,” he says. (Photo Ed Rode)

Former frontman for the Screaming Cheetah Wheelies now giving his voice for gospel, Mike Farris is a powerhouse. Whether he’s performing solo or with his band, the Roseland Rhythm Revue, he puts out an intense electrifying experience and I’m here to tell you, Mike Farris’ newest recording, Shout! Live captures the raw power of his performance.

The 14-track CD, which recently earned a Dove award for Best Traditional Gospel Recording, includes several songs from his 2007 Salvation In Lights including gospel standards “Sit Down Servant” and “Oh Mary Don’t You Weep” plus originals “Selah! Selah!” and “Streets of Galilee.” In a telephone interview, Mike told me he wanted to document how much the songs have changed since he released Salvation In Lights and began performing it with his topnotch band. “When I recorded Salvation In Lights, it was just straight from my brain into the studio. The album took off and we started touring. Live, it got to be more soulful, raw. The original was mostly acoustic. There was very little electrical instrumentation.”

Players on Shout! Live include Mike Farris, vocals and guitar; Joe McMahan, guitar; Nick Govrik, bass; Keio Stroud, drums; Ericson Holt, piano, organ; Rusty Russell, Dennis Taylor and Greg Cox, horns; the McCrary Sisters: Ann, Regina and Freda, vocals.

If you’ve never heard the McCrary sisters, you’re in for a treat. Daughters of the late Rev. Samuel H. McCrary, an original member of the Fairfield Four Gospel Quartet, these ladies are making their daddy proud. Regina performed with Elvis, toured with Stevie Wonder and was a featured soloist at the Alabama Theatre in Myrtle Beach. What they bring to the Roseland Rhythm Revue is immeasurable.

‘Shout! Live’ (Sony 2009) by Mike Farris & the Roseland Rhythm Revue received a Dove award this year for Best Traditional Gospel Album. (Photo Ed Rode)

Listening to Shout! Live, I felt like I was there. Mike’s energy on “Selah! Selah!”  was through the roof. “Oh Mary Don’t You Weep” thrilled me to the bone. Emotionally charged horns, background vocals of the mighty McCrary Sisters, Eric Holt tearing into the organ, audience reactions; it was like being at a Southern revival show and having the best seat in the house.

Shout! Live was recorded over four different Sunday Night Shout! performances at Nashville’s Station Inn. Farris has written an essay that’s part of the liner notes. In it he explains his concept for the Sunday night Shout!

“I like the idea of playing music and having church anywhere with anybody! By my own definition, church is what happens when one or more people come together and discuss, life, love, sin, God, enlightenment, witches, masters, and slaves. The human condition. I have found that that’s exactly what you get when you have “church” outside the prescriptive walls of church as we know it. People seem to let their guard down. They feel safe and warm and comfortable.

“The Shout! is a place for people to come who never found a comfortable seat in the traditional church, but always needed that ‘spiritual’ fix. We never turn anyone away. If they don’t have the money for the cover, they give what they can, if anything, and come on in. Some are there for a beer and some social time, some are there just because it makes them feel good, and some are there because they need some reassurance and to feel justified in their own private quest.

“Truck drivers mix with local music folks and housewives, college kids and little kids everywhere. Black, white, old and young, it makes no difference. We’ve discovered a great thing about this music that’s been handed down to us: Black spiritual music crosses all borders, tears down all walls, bridges all the gaps and reveals that everybody is a brother and a sister.

“We all have the same struggles and the same joys. In the end, we all walk away with a great big smile on our faces, feeling ‘excited delighted, and loved’!!!

Shout! Live is available on CD, as individual downloads and on vinyl. “If you’ve got a turntable, you’ve got to hear the vinyl,” the artist insists.

Whatever format you choose, play it loud. If you’ll let him, Mike Farris will give you goose bumps, and then some.

Mike Farris & the Roseland Rhythm Revue
Shout! Live
Label: Sony
Genre: Gospel