A native of Bernice, LA, Robert Finley began practicing on a guitar he’d bought at a thrift store. Gospel music would play an important role in his early development: “I always went to gospel quartet groups and I always took the front row seat, and I just watched their fingers,” reflects Finley in an interview. In 1970, Finley joined the U.S. Army, training as a helicopter technician he was deployed to Germany. It was there he was asked to accommodate the army’s need for a guitarist and bandleader, and traveled all over Europe during his enlistment.
Returning home, he worked as a part-time street performer, leader of the gospel group Brother Finley and the Gospel Sisters, and as a carpenter. He was forced to retire from carpentry when he was diagnosed as legally blind. In 2015, the Music Maker Relief Foundation, a non-profit relief organization that supports aging Blues musicians, discovered Finley busking before a gig in Arkansas. With their help, he made a musical comeback featuring him in packaged tours with acts that included Robert Lee Coleman and Alabama Slim.
Finley released his debut album Age Don’t Mean A Thing in September 2016, produced by Bruce Watson, who keyed in on Finley’s more soulful compositions. He traveled to Memphis to record the album with members of the Bo-Keys, writing all but two tracks himself, the record evokes the influences of Booker T. and the MGs, James Brown, and B.B. King. Finley would connect with Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys, together they released an original soundtrack for the graphic novel Murder Ballads, published by Z2 Comics. Shortly thereafter, Billboard announced that Finley would be releasing an album produced and co-written by Auerbach.
Finley’s fourth album, Black Bayou was released October 27th on Easy Eye Sound. Joined by Auerbach, the album is the story of Finley’s life in the bayou of Louisiana. The first single, “What Goes Around (Comes Around), is a smokin’ hot, bluesy, rock track that highlights Finley’s smooth, velvety vocals, coupled with lyrics that ring so true in today’s helter skelter world. A true gem of an album that is already being heard on The Current, Radio Woodstock, WMOT, WMVY and more.
Photo by Jim Herrington