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Tuesday, July 29, 2008

CD Review: Mike Farris - Salvation In Lights

Mike Farris - Salvation In Lights
2007, INO Records

Gospel is the original music of praise & worship. Great examples of exultant music exist in the Anglican and Catholic traditions, but American Gospel music found a way to turn joy and sadness into an expression of love and worship that's been unmatched before or since. Modern gospel often misses the most essential elements of the classical form, as Gospel itself has become a marketing point. Luckily there are people like Mike Farris out there, who everyone once in a while bring us back to the roots of gospel. Farris goes one step further -- he returns us to the roots of Gospel and then modernizes it in a way that is fresh and yet stays true to the original vibe. Salvation In Lights displays how it is possible to keep the spirit of Gospel alive and vibrant in 21st Century America.

You may be surprised to know that Mike Farris is not only a former member of The Screamin’ Cheetah Wheelies, but also of Stevie Ray Vaughan’s Double Trouble. His fascination/love of gospel music grew out of his recovery from drug addiction. Farris seems to feel that God gave him a second chance in sobriety, and Salvation In Lights is in some ways his attempt at giving back.

Farris has one of the most soulful voices I've ever heard. The man can sing with the best of them, and brings a warm timbre that's part Seal and part Otis Redding to his witness. The arrangements on Salvation In Lights are original and full of life -- the perfect complement to Farris' voice. The set starts out with Sit Down Servant, with full gospel choir. It's an ideal choice to open with, as it will call you in whether your purpose is worship or just to hear great music. Streets Of Gallilee is a lively tune with some incredible jazz flavored piano playing underneath. Oh Mary Don't You Weep updates the gospel classic while staying true to the original.

Precious Lord, Take My Hand plays as a honky-tonk tune that seems just as at home on Saturday night as Sunday morning. Make sure to check out Can't No Grave Hold My Body Down, which starts out with a groove very similar to Mustang Sally. Other significant tunes here are Change Is Gonna Come, Selah! Selah!, and the Staples Singers I'll Take You There. Salvation In Lights closes with I'm Gonna Get There, a neo-Motown sound complete with Stax-style horns.

The material on Salvation In Lights is well-chosen. Not a song seems out of place. Farris himself is a force majeure; he is the sort of singer where you'd gladly pay to hear him sing the phonebook. Here he is both moved and magnified by the songs he sings and the result is magical. And let's not forget the supporting cast. You will not find a finer backup unit anywhere. If there is anyone who can bring Gospel music fully into the popular music realm its Mike Farris. Salvation In Lights is sublime -- a Desert Island Disc, and comes with Wildy's World's highest recommendation.

Rating: 5 Stars (Out of 5)

You can learn more about Mike Farris, check out You can purchase an autographed copy of the album through his website, currently for $9.99. It is also available at,, and most major music retailers, although it may be a special order.

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