In preparation of writing the review, I went back to the shelves and was surprised to find that I had only three of their previous albums, the debut Fork in the Road and its follow-up The Infamous Stringdusters as well as both the download of Silver Sky and the deluxe edition which came with the live album We’ll Do It Live.
I must have misplaced their third album somewhere, because when I purchased the download earlier this month, it sounded immediately familiar. I share this because I think sometimes folks feel that writers, even we of the freelance variety, get all their music free. I certainly don’t. [I was serviced with Laws of Gravity; that is why I wrote about it.]
In order to write this review, I purchased downloads of Things That Fly, Let It Go, Undercover, and Ladies & Gentlemen. I did that to ensure that my perspective on Laws of Gravity was fully informed. I will never, ever make back that $3o from my review of Laws of Gravity (once upon a time…O, how I sometimes long for 2005!), but in order to write about a band I need to understand their music.
Apparently, I stopped intently listening to The Infamous Stringdusters some time ago, and I am now- having listened to their albums for the past three weeks- regretful of that: won’t happen again. I am listening to their set from last year’s DelFest as I type these words, and I am reminded of how impressed I was the first time I heard them live- maybe on WDVX- and how incredible their concert in Red Deer was almost a decade ago. They are a great band- not necessarily ‘bluegrass’ as I understand it, but a damned fine group of musicians and singers. Check out my review over at Fervor Coulee Bluegrass, and feel free to let me know what you think.
I was asked to contribute some reviews to Lonesome Road Review recently. I am likely writing a little less for LLR and Country Standard Time than I had in the past, but I do find time to get a couple or three done monthly. These days, there is little to no money in freelance writing on the level I do it-back in the early to mid-aughts I had a steady little stream of revenue coming from various publications, but that has pretty much dried up. Fortunately for me, I have a true career to pay the bills, and I am able to leave paying jobs to those who actually are writing for a living…and who are usually a bit better at it than I am.
I try to link through everything I write for Lonesome Road Review, Country Standard Time, and Fervor Coulee Bluegrass here at Fervor Coulee, but inevitably some items get missed. While watching the new Bear Family DVD of BR5-49’s live 1996 German show, I thought I would try to catch some of the missed links.
If you are not familiar with Ewan MacColl, you really owe it to yourself to do some Google searching. He was a terrific songwriter and a central figure-some may argue ‘the’ central figure-in the revival of the British folk music tradition. He was also a big of a cad, I’ve read, but since few of us are ideal human beings, let’s just enjoy the music. Compass Records recently released (in North America) Joy of Living, a two-disc set of MacColl songs recorded by the crème of modern British folk. My review is up at Lonesome Road Review. It is fair brilliant, and because of the album I discovered my latest favourite band, Bombay Bicycle Club.
Released last week, the debut album from bluegrass veteran Rob Ickes and his new partner in song Trey Hensley is in all ways exceptional. My review has been posted to Country Standard Time, and the following link should get you there: http://www.countrystandardtime.com/d/cdreview.asp?xid=5617
I haven’t done a great deal of writing during the past month, but I have placed a few pieces recently.
I posted my review of Phil Leadbetter’s new album The Next Move over at Fervor Coulee Bluegrass. With a bluegrass heart at the core of the album, Leadbetter and his many collaborators have created a wonderful disc that should find favour with those who are open to strong country influences. The reigning IBMA Dobro Player of the year has done very well here, and has enlisted strong singers including John Cowan, Steve Gulley, Dale Ann Bradley, Con Hunley, and especially Shawn Camp to give voice to the songs.
A few reviews went up at the Lonesome Road Review over the last month.
My take on Alice Gerrard’s new album Follow the Music is something you may be interested in if you appreciate strong folk music with an old-time bent. If you are not familiar with Gerrard, she has been a mainstay in the old-time music world for more than forty years, and prior to that was without a doubt ‘a pioneering woman of bluegrass’ through her long association with the dearly missed Hazel Dickens. Not one to rest on her laurels, Gerrard has teamed with the principals of Hiss Golden Messenger to produce an album every bit as compelling as last year’s Bittersweet.
Fayssoux McClain may not be familiar to you, but if you have listened to the early albums from Emmylou Harris, you’ve heard her voice. Recording under her given name, Fayssoux has found a home with the Red Beet Records conglomeration- Peter Cooper and Eric Brace. If you are missing country sounds and tradition in the ‘country’ music of today,I Can’t Wait may be what you should be seeking.
Dublin’s I Draw Slow, beyond having a non-traditional sounding name for a bluegrass band also have a rather non-traditional approach to the music. Still, there is something here that will be of interest to those who come to the music with rather open ears. I won’t be listening to this album as frequently as I do the music of James Reams, Flatt & Scruggs, or Dale Ann Bradley, but I found a great deal to appreciate within their album White Wave Chapel.
Mike Farris Shine For All The People Compass Records
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!