As founder and lead guitarist of the Screamin’ Cheetah Wheelies and guitarist with Double Trouble, Stevie Ray Vaughn’s backing band, Mike Farris’ rock and roll credentials are fairly unimpeachable, so it’s more than a little surprising to hear this, his second solo album. A traveling tent-revival of a gospel-soul album, it’s equal parts Stax-influenced soul, Johnny Cash-influenced country, and old style tent-revival gospel. Backed by a band including Johnny Cash’s longtime bass player Dave Roe, singer Ann McCrary, and several crack Nashville session players, Salvation in Lights was recorded in the same Nashville studio where Jack White recorded Loretta Lynn’s wonderful Van Lear Rose.
A recovering alcoholic and drug addict, Farris tells his tale of redemption via “Precious Lord, Take My Hand”. Written by Thomas A. Dorsey, a writer and performer of bawdy blues tunes who later became the “Father of Gospel Music”, Farris and his band transform the track into a gospel-inflected soul track punctuated with bright horn accents. I tend to find albums written by recovering addicts—especially those who have found religion, as Farris clearly has—fairly tedious. Thankfully, however, Farris doesn’t spend much time indulging in self-pity, concentrating instead on the positive side of recovery. Other standout tracks include the Farris-penned “Selah! Selah!” and two more covers, of Sam Cooke’s “A Change Is Gonna Come” and of the Staples Singers classic “I’ll Take You There”.