Robert Finley’s singing is as primal as an alligator & sweeter than late-summer honey. And on the new Sharecropper’s Son, he uses his marvelously expressive voice—which can glide from a gut-deep growl to a soothing purr to a transcendent falsetto all in one single phrase—to tell the story of his life in song. The album’s 10 numbers, produced by Dan Auerbach for his Easy Eye Sound label, are blues, soul, gospel, & rock-infused chapters from that life, weaving Mr. Finley’s own stories of picking cotton, country childhood, hardship on city streets, jail time, the pain and joy of love, the search for a better life & the dream of salvation into a spellbinding musical tale. You can hear that in how Mr. Finley and the band nearly breath together in songs like the gospel “Souled Out On You,” where the singer’s heart-piercing falsetto rings sharp and clear as an angel’s horn—underpinned by Auerbach’s fuzz-sweetened brown-butter guitar tone—and “Sharecropper’s Son,” where the musicians mine a deep, funky groove as Mr. Finley sings about his raising “out in the red hot sun, where the work is never done.” Cut-by-cut, this follow-up to his 2017’s Easy Eye Sound release “Going Platinum!” bristles w/the visceral energy that can only be captured by creatively charged musicians playing live & spontaneously in the studio. Of course, the fire behind the conflagrant performances on Sharecropper’s Son is Robert Finley, who was so deeply in the zone throughout that his lyrics & vocal approach for 2 of the album’s songs, the autobiographical “Country Child” and his manifesto of love and struggle, “Country Boy,” were improvised as he and the band rolled tape. Although he has long been a potent artist, for most of the past 20 years, after his blindness led him to semi-retirement, he’s mostly been playing little joints within an hour’s drive of Winnsboro—like Riverside Coney Island, which specializes in boiled crawfish, and Enoch’s Irish Pub & Café, both in Monroe, Louisiana. But his ascent has been swift since he was discovered in 2015 busking on the streets of Helena, Arkansas. In addition to touring more than 10 countries in the wake of his two earlier albums, he was also a contestant on the 2019 season of the TV competition America’s Got Talent reaching the semi-finals and quickly became a fan favorite during his run. His daughter Christy Johnson, who appeared with him on the show, also provides some backing vocals for Sharecropper’s Son.
I had the complete please of chatting with Mr. Finley about his upcoming performance here in Madison on January 22nd at the High Noon Saloon. We get into what folks in attendance can expect from that night’s show, including learning how you, the people there to see this show, are the most important thing in that moment for Mr. Finley. We take time to discuss how the new album went from there to here, then to now and how the stories seems so real, because they are. Certainly after listening to the new album, I do wish Mr. Finley was a name we all caught on to earlier….I bet the live show will back that up 100%.
UPDATE: This event has been moved to Feb 15th.