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.
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.
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.