Mike Farris and the Cumberland Saints come alive at TTU’s Backdoor Playhouse

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Mike Farris performs at TTU Thursday, Sept. 23. (Photo by Andrew Smith)
More great music is scheduled to rock Tennessee Tech University's Backdoor Playhouse: Mike Farris and the Cumberland Saints bring their energetic live performance to the stage at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 23. The concert will also feature special guest Amelia Tritico.

Farris, winner of the Americana Music Association's New & Emerging Artist of the Year award in 2008 and winner of a Dove Award this year, has been an active musician for years and founded/fronted the Nashville band Screamin' Cheetah Wheelies.

Farris released his second solo album, "Salvation in Lights," in 2007 to much critical acclaim. He has performed across the country at venues including Bonnaroo, SXSW and the Austin City Limits Festival — leaving critics in awe of his live performances and unique voice. Farris blends music genres in nearly all of his songs, some of his favorites being traditional black gospel and southern blues.

"It's music with dirt on its feet and sweat on its back," said Farris. "It pumps through our veins. It's simple and straightforward. That's one reason why, especially in times like these, we need it. This old music draws us in and warms us up like nothing else."

Farris recently announced an Oct. 26 release of "The Night the Cumberland Came Alive," a six-song EP commemorating and celebrating the rebirth of Nashville after the devastating May floods. The recording took place not long after the flooding occurred, during the extensive rebuilding phase when the people of Middle Tennessee came together to bring some normalcy back to their lives.

Several well-known area musicians collaborated with Farris on the project, including Sam Bush, Kenny Vaughan (Marty Stuart), Ketch Secor and Gill Landry from Old Crow Medicine Show, Byron House (Robert Plant), as well as Ann, Regina and Alfreda McCrary (The McCrary Sisters), Derrek Phillips and Eric Holt from Farris' own Roseland Rhythm Revue. This is the first of Farris' Rose Memorial Fund projects, an ongoing charitable outreach in memory of his long-time manager and friend Rose McGathy.

A portion of the proceeds from the sale of the EP will be used to benefit the Downtown Presbyterian Church's ministry to the homeless in Nashville, which seems fitting as the record was recorded in less than a day at that historic Nashville building.

This release comes right after Farris' recent GMA Dove Award for Best Traditional Gospel Album of the Year for 2009's "SHOUT! Live."

One of Farris' fans includes Andy Smith, TTU English instructor and the person behind the Center Stage request bringing the concert to campus.

"Mike Farris mixes gospel, rock, soul, blues, and folk so seamlessly that his work really does represent the hard-to-define genre of Americana," said Smith. "Working with the McCrary sisters — daughters of Sam McCrary, of the legendary gospel group Fairfield Four — this collaboration, currently being billed as The Cumberland Saints, truly represents a cultural hybrid, a testimony to the unique harmonic heritage that is Tennessee music. Whenever I have seen Farris and the Sisters perform together, I can be sure that the spirit is in the room."

This Center Stage event, co-sponsored by Tech Players and WTTU-FM, is free and open to the public. For more information, contact Smith at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it or 931-372-6371.