Review by Vai Thomas
More than 400 years ago, William Shakespeare commented that ‘music can raze out the written troubles of the brain’. And lo, how true that statement still stands tall centuries later, as it did centuries earlier before Shakespeare put forth those words. Mental well-being is something of profound importance to one and all. And music can be an incredible source of comfort to us in the most testing of times. But when a listener under duress turns to music for comfort, what does he/she look for? Empathy, to begin with. And a sense of being in company with another who has gone through his/her own hell on earth, and understands their story. This, coupled with a powerfully raw honesty and a matter-of-fact peppiness, more often than not, proves to be healing. These remarkable traits, and more, are found in droves in Farees’ fusion of folk and pop, titled ‘She Talks With Jesus’. Written in the key of F# Major, ‘She Talks With Jesus’ is primarily an acoustic folk ballad, fused with new age rock, desert blues and protest elements: a compellingly rustic choice of genre combinations in itself. Themed upon his mother’s life and her tribulation, Farees, also a poet, has come up with a miniature odyssey of tranquility, rage, nostalgia, courage, and even a touch of sarcasm, all fused and conveyed with raw lucidity – both in the lyrics and their rendition. (It need hardly be said that lived experiences make for very powerful lyrics when incorporated so, as is in this case! The listener’s ears thrive upon that which is authentic.) Right at the very beginning, the strumming patterns upon the acoustic guitar set the tone, while indicating less as to what is to come. And then you have the words. Lyrics such as ‘If you help her, You will destroy her....It’s an odd world Where nurses make fun of the sick’ do have a way of getting to the listener in a hard-hitting manner. The fury at society’s lack of empathy conveyed here is raw and brutally honest, and yet not in-your-face irate – a smart move. And Farees’s rendition of the lyrics is the true soul of this number. Highly reminiscent of Johnny Cash and Yusuf Islam, Farees’s vocals – full of purpose, an airy rawness, deliberate restraint – save for that outburst at the bridge (And if you listen, You might get infected) – serve perfectly as both narrator and moral anchor, appealing to the listener’s soul for understanding, without once being forceful.
And praise must be reserved not just for the rendition, but also for the musicality of it as well. The fact that the verses are heterometric (or where the lines are of uneven lengths) works wonders lyrically as well as vocally – for it serves as an effective channel for unencumbered emotions reflected thus. And the truly impressive point of note here is that the rendition of the heterometric verses retain themselves with equal ease in the listener’s mind – not usual, and certainly not easy, for lyrics with uneven lengths to accomplish. And the breezy conviction with which they are delivered is of equal vitality. And kudos must also be reserved for the arrangement and performance of the guitars and drum, all amalgamated pristinely for the consummate protest ballad, and mix-engineered very well in tandem with the vocals. ‘She Talks With Jesus’, in the end, feels one wanting to hear more beyond the five minutes and thirty seconds that it has been delivered unto the listener. Its rawness, unbridled honesty and immense creativity, combined with that which renders itself with a staunch relatability to the listener, makes this number a winner all the way. Indeed, with intent like this, with soul like this, and with creativity like this – which A.I. may not be ever capable of mimicking, we mere mortals are meant to move mountains by moving people’s minds and souls.
About Farees Farees, a multiracial musician with diverse cultural roots, defies categorization with his groundbreaking music. Starting in Africa, he fused African blues with a unique sound, gaining global recognition. His music addresses societal issues and acts as a powerful form of therapy. Despite facing racial profiling and detention, Farees channels his experiences into activism and creates thought-provoking concept albums. His artistry encompasses spoken word, poetry, rap, and mesmerizing guitar work. Farees is a true musical innovator, blending organic African, spoken word, electric blues, and rock influences. For more information on Farees, please visit his website.