Tag Archive: blues

I was thrilled today to open my email and to see in my inbox a free download. I’m half sanguine, so I love to get free stuff. This free stuff, however, I actually find useful. Berkleemusic is the online continuing education division of Berklee College of Music. You can read more in their own words on their landing page. I was thrilled to find this little ebook (21 pages in .pdf format), so I thought I’d share. Happy playing!



#10893: Mike Farris


It was one of those happy accidents so common on YouTube (and Wikipedia, for that matter). I was procrastinating from the dissertation writing, putting together a playlist to keep me inspired, and I happened to see a guy in a fedora and sunglasses. The title of the song was “Ain’t No Grave.” Being raised in an atmosphere that embraces the marriage of many forms of gospel music, I was intrigued.

As I obsessively clicked on video after video (mostly live performances, which rocketed me to fandom ever faster), I listened enraptured to the mix of everything I love in music, coupled with a fascination for the type of artist who would put together an album like Salvation in Lights. A man who struggled with personal trials and vices, saved by God and music, Farris is indeed a rare talent.


The voice was everything I dreamed gospel could be. I was transported back to a time I never actually knew in a haze of Etta, Ella, Louis, Nina, Madeleine, to a place where my musical loves live in a perpetual jam session that spans age, class, race and generations. And even better? It was gospel. It was the marriage of everything I love about blues to the passion of my heart.

And why gospel? It is a music that understands the pain of blues. It’s been there. It’s sat in the doldrums, covered in sackcloth and ashes, and, rather than scream in anguish, has simply sought balance in the harmony of hurt, lyric and melody to form a sound that bewilders and bewitches simultaneously in its deceptively simple chord progressions and melodic interchanges.

The thing about gospel is that it gets all of this. It will see your heartache and raise you hope. It is a music that has lived the life, experienced the hurt, and found triumph. It’s not a candy-coated Christianity. It’s a music that is filled with the same trials, the same power to feel, but takes it beyond agony and lifts its listener to serenity, to the power of salvation.


And so, in the music of Mike Farris, I found a kaleidoscopic harmony of everything I love about music . . . plus a guy who rocks a fedora. Need I say more? Maybe I should just let him sing it.