Robert Finley, Sharecropper’s Son Review
by Imogen Speith
There is something so rewarding when a musician is self-taught. The freedom that comes with the thirst to play, originality, and pure soulfulness ignite the heart. Robert Finley was a carpenter who was forced to retire after losing his eyesight. However, his love of music was always enlivened in his soul, writing his first tune at ten. His self-taught approach kept him always seeking and learning. His talent was noticed by The Black Keys frontman and Nashville-based record label owner Dan Auerbach, who was sent a video of the musician playing songs on the street. Auerbach invited Finley to sing with him on the score for a friend’s graphic novel. The novel titled Murder Ballads was a dark, bluesy project.
In the studio is when Auerbach started to realize the full depth of Finley’s talents. Auerbach explains, “he’s a blues guitar player, but when he puts his guitar down, you could set him in front of an orchestra, and he would sing just as good as Ray Charles on the first take. He has that magnetic hugeness about his voice and just knows where to put it in the pocket, always.” Now releasing Sharecropper’s Son, written by Finley and co-written and produced by Dan Auerbach, Finley’s finely bestowed talents are on full display.
Sharecropper’s Son is a ten-track album realized by the songwriting talents of Finley, Auerbach, Bobby Wood, and respected country songwriter Pat McLaughlin. Rounding out the all-star lineup is a band that has worked with everyone from Elvis to Wilson Pickett, including guitar expertise from Auerbach himself. The album is an amalgamation of Finley’s talents, ranging from gospel to blues, soul, country, and rock n roll. The main ingredient is Finley’s immense and powerfully eminent natural talent.
The album kicks off with “Souled Out On You,” from the first notes, Finley’s vocals amaze. His honest and heart-wrenching reading feels like a throwback to the golden years of soul. But, folks, this is the real deal. Finley has lived life, felt the hardships, and it drips from every emotive lyric he sings. The additive of horns elevates the track and keeps the tracks tightly knitted.
The title track, “Sharecropper’s Son,” feels like an anthem to hard-working souls who built their lives with hard work and plenty of sweat. Finley sings the lyrics like a beacon of remembrance. “It was hard, but it was fair, we was always out there, out in the red hot sun, ’Cause the work was never done, for a sharecropper’s son, yeah.”
Each track has a lustrous story of survival, hard work, and perseverance, all sung by Finley’s sympathetic and soulful voice. The production has a nuanced authenticity to it, not overly slick which would kill the vibe of the music. Instead, it’s raw, emotive, and gets to the heart of the blues tradition with its honest and moving themes. Finley’s voice is engaging and believably heartfelt. He is a breath of fresh for any music lover.