Mike Farris is a gospel singer.
Mike Farris is a rock ‘n’ roll singer.
And Mike Farris is a soul singer, in the mode of the 60s and 70s definition of ‘soul.’ Drop one of his songs- try “River Jordan” or “Sparrow”- into one of those Northern Soul compilations you run across sometimes (if you’re looking in the right places) and he would not stand out uncomfortably.
Shine For All The People is one of the most joyous and moving albums that I’ve heard this year. It makes you move. My review copy came without notes, so I don’t know who all else is making these gorgeous noises—the singers swoop and holler, give praise and uplift, the musicians get into a deep groove and never let up—but Farris carries the water.
Dang, he can sing.
Mary Gauthier has written several great songs, and “Mercy Now” stands with the best of them. Unexpectedly, Farris takes her song to another level, wringing even greater hope and charity from the song than (somehow) even Gauthier’s sparse performance does.
I no longer feel guilty or inadequate for missing a performer who has been around for a decade or two and who finally crosses my path and blows me away; there is just too much great stuff to capture it all, and heck Guy Clark had been making records for twenty years before I ever heard of him. But Mike Farris is someone who is going to cost me some dollars as I need to check out the rest of his fairly extensive catalogue. (I did buy his The Night the Cumberland Came Alive fundraising e.p. of a few years back, but nothing on that recording compares to what Shine For All The People captures.)
What else can I try to say? (While editing, I noticed I had originally mistyped “What else can I try to sing?” perhaps proof of what this album has had me doing for the past month.)
He out Al Wilson’s Al Wilson. Richard Manuel is too obvious a comparison, but will do. The joy of “The Lord Will Make A Way Somehow,” taken from Al Green’s first gospel album, is convincing enough to make one want to believe, and I suppose that’s a start; I’m not going to suggest Farris outdoes Green, but— as funky as Green’s 1980 slice was— the entire performance captured here is more impactful.
Bookending this album peak are two Farris originals, the finger-snapping “Real Fine Day” and “Power of Love,” and they are certainly two of the finer songs of the album, the latter especially. The vocal support Farris receives on this bluesy track nudges it to the top.
Some will overlook this recording because of the subject matter. Yes, these songs sing Praise. More than this though, these songs— when melded with Mike Farris’ voice and the uplifting arrangements—have the potential to give hope and strength to those who are needing it, are looking for it.
Beyond that, Shine For All The People just sounds damn good!
Open your ears.
As always, thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee. @FervorCoulee.