Mike Farris – Shine For All The People (2014)

Share this:

Anyone whose voice is a composite of Al Green, Richard Manuel and Wilson Pickett oughta be a pretty good soul singer, right? That’s one way to describe the instant-classic croon of Mike Farris, who captures the spiritual sultriness of Green, the joyous shout of Pickett and the heartbreak of Manuel. There are a lot of soul singers today who are trying to evoke the spirits of soul giants of times past, but “trying” doesn’t seem to be part of Farris’ method; he sounds this way seemingly without consciously making an effort. It’s just who he his.

Shine For All The People, Farris’ fifth CD since emerging on his own about ten years ago — following a stint leading the Southern rock band the Screamin’ Cheetah Wheelies — reflects his firm belief in the power of music to bring all people together. That’s not just reflected in the album title, either.

Farris brings people together with spirituals both old and new, opening with the ancient hymn “River Jordan” that’s backed by a saxophone, a trumpet, a clarinet solo, a taut bass line and a couple of lady backup harmony singers. But Farris’s own voice remains far and away the most commanding thing in the room. And when he undertakes a smoky bar approach to JB Lenoir’s “Jonah and the Whale,” there’s enough Stax in it to retain a certain stateliness and fealty to his secular sources for inspiration, never mind the religious ones. On the very next song, you’re transported from Memphis to Preservation Hall thanks to the trad jazz arrangement he applied to “Sparrow.”

Farris borrows from others like all the good ones do and makes it seem like he invented them himself like all the great ones do. The two compositions he did contribute, “Real Fine Day” and “Power of Love,” have all the affirming lyrics and deeply soulful feel of the best from that golden mid 60s-early 70s era of Dixie soul.

Ultimately, Farris’ vocal delivery is why this album succeeds beyond lyrics, arrangements and chord changes, as fine as those things are. “Every single one of us,” he assures us on Mary Gauthier’s “Mercy Now,” “can use a little mercy now,” and “The Lord Will Make A Way Somehow” aren’t just words to Farris; he brings meaning to this phrase with the strong conviction and sincerity. Those qualities comes through even on a played-to-death chant like “This Little Light of Mine,” but Farris is savvy enough to make it rock so your feet and hands stay as occupied as your ears.

“I think it’s time we take back some of these words that’s been hijacked over the years, like the word “gospel.” It (means) ‘good news’,” insists Farris. Gospel, soul, Americana, whatever you want to call it, you’ll find a lot of good news on Mike Farris’ Shine For All The People, and get that same good feeling you get from hearing it.

Visit Mike Farris’ website for further info.

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron is an SQL demon for a Fortune 100 company by day, music opinion-maker at night. His musings are strewn out across the interwebs on jazz.com, AllAboutJazz.com, a football discussion board and some inchoate customer reviews of records from the late 1990s on Amazon under a pseudonym that will never be revealed. E-mail him at svaaron@somethingelsereviews .com or follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SVictorAaron
S. Victor Aaron

Latest posts by S. Victor Aaron (see all)

Share this:
Close