The vamping rhythm of “Sharecropper’s Son” was the building groove that revved the enthused audience. The guitarist introduced the tall, slender, cowboy-hat wearing Robert Finley. He strutted across the dimly-lit stage with poise and confidence. A formidable stature. All with the relatability of the Louisiana everyman.
Joined on stage by his daughter Christy Johnson on back-up vocals, the guitar/bass/drums trio brilliantly backed him up for the 90-minute set. Of the eighteen songs performed, most prominent were the eight new songs from Black Bayou: his new 2023 release, deservingly getting praise and attention.
At an energetic 69 years old, Finley drew the audience in with his stories, inspiration, warmth, front porch wisdom, loving spirit and a bit of devil-may-care player about him. Above all, killer arrangements with driving rhythm guitar riffs and solid back-beat. Music with a rootsy range. Swampy, juke joint, southern soul and more. Some lyrical commentary about shared human themes. Others autobiographical: “Sharecropper’s Son” and “Alligator Bait.” The latter a childhood recollection which has a campfire thriller-story quality to it.
His front-porch wisdom shined in songs like “What Goes Around (Comes Around)” and “Nobody Wants To Be Lonely.”
Mid-set, Christy took center stage singing a couple of renditions of older soul hits: Etta James’ “I’d Rather Go Blind” and Betty Wright’s “Clean Up Woman.” Her voice was sweet and strong, capturing rapt attention.
Like Bettye LaVette, Queen Ida or Professor Longhair, it is exciting to see Finley’s later-life success unfold. Fans appeared affectionately glad to see this artist not slip through into obscurity. A well deserved acknowledgement.
Opening act, U.K.-based Dr. Tom Attah was equally a blues treasure to enjoy making for a complete night of soul-inspiring music.
Finley has just finished his EU/UK Black Bayou tour returning to the states for a December 9th appearance in Nashville at the The Grand Ole Opry. Then a tour of France in February of 2024.
Images: © Phil Solomonson / Philamonjaro Studio (for American Blues Scene):
What Goes Around (Comes Around)
Nobody Wants To Be Lonely
I Can Feel Your Pain
Livin’ Out A Suitcase
Clean Up Woman
You Got It (And I Need It)
Souled Out On You
Get It While You Can
Waste Of Time
Make Me Feel Alright