Mike Farris, shout live!He's done it again!

Label: INO /Columbia

Time: 14 tracks, 74 mins

Some artists are so good that you don't want to hear their music. That is, you can be worried that one bad album is going to break the spell. Mike Farris had my album of 2007 with Salvation in Lights, and the idea of hearing it live in a loose, raw style made me wonder whether it would lose something magical that the studio produced.

Hearing the first track starting confirmed my fears. It sounded a bit rough and I thought that I was in for an inferior version of the studio disc that would taint both releases in my mind.

But by the time we had got to the end of track four, adrenalin was getting me ready to give it a 5-star rating. It's not unusual for me to dance in my kitchen, but this was making me do moves my legs haven't managed in quite a while and putting a lot of utensils at risk of being kicked to the ground by accident. It made me remember that before my grandparents were dreaming of my parents, there were artists who were so good that people wanted to record them to preserve the memory. It is the performance that came before the recording, and Farris has the soul and fire of a real performer.

But with some of this material it goes deeper than vocal technique – and Farris has gritty gospel soul so embedded in his vocal chords that you probably couldn't remove it without chopping the top half of his body off. The joy you feel with a song like "Can't Sit Down" or "Mary Don't You Weep" is deep in the gut, and it bursts to get out. With this live version of the latter, you can hear the intro getting you ready for the song, and the excitement makes it explode into life.

As well as twists of style, like the oh-so-swampy sound of "Devil Don't Sleep," it's a real joy to have some new material. "Good News" not only maintains the set's shuffling rhythms and brassy New Orleans feel, but adds both a nifty organ solo and some cheeky "la-la-la-la-la-la-la"s. The CD bonus of "Green, Green Grass of Home" winds everything down beautifully.

While the near-legendary McCrary sisters add incendiary depth to Farris' songs and some tasty variety when they do an à capella of "Dig a Little Deeper," the only downside to this release is their over-stretched slot in the middle of "Take Me."

If I had to choose between this and Salvation in Lights for a life lived on a desert island, it's hard to know which I'd take; but with a belly full of soul and a good few extra minutes, this one is the prime contender.



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