After spending the ‘90s fronting the hard-rocking, hard-touring Screamin' Cheetah Wheelies, Mike Farris has had a career and spiritual revival in the past few years. His recent albums have been invigorating blasts of gospel-fueled blues-rock. On The Night the Cumberland Came Alive, he continues in the same vein for a good reason and a good cause. This six-song EP was inspired by the disastrous flood that hit Nashville in May 1, 2010, and a portion of the proceeds will benefit Nashville's Downtown Presbyterian Church, where this CD was recorded on May 17, 2010. For this live recording, Farris assembled an all-star crew of Nashville players, dubbed the Cumberland Saints, which includes mandolinist Sam Bush, bassist Byron House, guitarist Kenny Vaughan, and Old Crow Medicine Show men Ketch Secor and Gill Landry. Together they play music that is both spiritual and spirited. The disc opens with the terrific title track, which sounds something like a bluesier "Watching the River Flow." The song, which directly addresses the flood, offers a local's look at the devastation ("there'll be no music in the Opry house tonight," Farris laments.) along with touching on more universal themes (like we "were all born to die."). Similarly, Farris reminds listeners on "Mother Earth" that "we all die" and "go back to Mother Earth." Considering the disc's genesis, it's not surprising that biblical references and a real sense of morality pervade this set of songs. "Dear Lazarus," a Farris co-write with Secor, makes use of the biblical reference about rising from the dead. Although it deals with death, the song also is an extremely lively number which reflects the wonderfully rollicking revival tent sound that Farris and his Cumberland crew create by smoothly fusing American roots music. Blues-rock guitar, bluegrass mandolin, and gospel call and response all feel at home on a cover of the Rev. Cleophus Robinson's "Wrapped Up, Tangled Up," while New Orleans-style horns punctuate a rousing rendition of "Don't Let the Sun Go Down." The only real problem with this EP is that it is way too short, coming in at under a half-hour long. Farris gets you stomping and clapping along with his soul-stirring music, and makes you wish that he and his band would play all night long.
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AllMusic Review by Michael Berick