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Mike Farris: a uniquely redemptive story

Heavenly Stuff

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"I'll Take You There" from the album Salvation Lights
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"I saw Mike Farris on my last trip to Nashville and he blew me away!" says Dan T. Henderson, of Suncoast Promotions. "His version of 'Green Green Grass of Home' at the Americana Music Association's 'Tribute to Porter Wagoner' was amazing. He was like the young, white Al Green."

Farris made a splash as lead vocalist with Nashville-based alternative rock band Screamin' Cheetah Wheelies — they scored a hit in 1993 with "Shakin' the Blues." He had some serious blues to shake shortly after, and a rough time battling chemical and alcohol dependency. Fortunately, he now boasts over two years of sobriety and a rejuvenated, spiritualized approach to his music and his life.

The singer tells the story of recovery on a newly released gospel-styled Salvation in Lights (INO Records). His second solo effort, the warmly produced 11-song album was recorded at the same Nashville house-studio where White Stripes' Jack White recorded Loretta Lynn's Van Lear Rose. The vibe must have been intense.

"When I'm playing music, it's like prayer," he says. "I'm closer to God than I ever am, outside of my prayer. That's the best way I can portray what I'm feeling."

More of a boisterous roots-rock tent revival than a traditional Southern gospel album, Salvation in Lights balances Farris's soulful original material (such as "Devil Don't Sleep," "I'm Gonna Get There," and "Lonely Road") with traditional songs like "Oh Mary Don't You Weep" and "Can't No Grave Hold My Body Down." Fiery reworkings of Sam Cooke's "A Change Is Gonna Come" and "Take Me (I'll Take You There)," a hit for the Staple Singers are nice touches.

"Something about that music moves me like nothing else," Farris says. "Hearing somebody like Skip James or Mavis Staples sing is spiritual, deep, and enlightening. It's like somebody shedding a little bit of light on the soul, on what makes people really tick." —T. Ballard Lesemann

Mike Farris performs at the Listening Room at Shem Creek Music Center (423 Hibben St., (843) 884-1346) at 8 p.m. on Fri. Jan. 11. Tickets are $15 ($12 adv.). Visit www.www.mikefarrismusic.net. and www.suncoastpromotions.com.

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