Album review: ‘Age Don’t Mean A Thing’ for Robert Finley

With $19.95 and a dream, Robert Finley has released one of the best soul/blues albums of the year.

Even after such a long, circuitous route, the dream and the stock paid big dividends. When Finley was a boy in tiny Bernice, Louisiana, he’d sometimes be sent to town for basic needs. On one such trip, his mom’s 20 bucks went not to a pair of shoes, but to a guitar standing in a shop window. As with many of his generation in the South, his earnest practice included no blues “devil music” anywhere near the folks. Naturally, he played it on the sly.

Robert FinleyIn the Army at 17, Finley led the band. Back home and ready to rock, his dream was quashed by the sheer economics of it. So Finley became a carpenter. When in his 50s he began losing his eyesight and couldn’t build, he again decided to go for the dream. Hard. Playing any way he could, Finley was spotted busking in the streets, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Now 62 and with organizational assistance from the Music Maker Relief Foundation, Robert Finley’s debut album ranges easily across the emotions of life. He sings with heart and guts, and plays guitar sweetly within the song. Each blues becomes a little slice of upbeat soul — no matter the tenor — right before your ears.

Finley’s backers at Fat Possum Records called in some of the South’s finest musicians, including the facile Mississippi guitarist Jimbo Mathus, who also produced the album quite effectively with label head Bruce Watson. The driving backbeat in the opening cover of George Clinton’s “I Just Want To Tell You” immediately jimmies the inner leg control. Horns and some beautifully-voiced lady background singers complete the takeoff. That, and a great, natural soul version of the schmaltzy ’70s band Bread’s “Make It With You” are the only covers. Otherwise, these are all the incredible musings of a man with skill, feel, and mostly, wisdom.

When Finley pours it out that “Age Don’t Mean a Thing,” listen. He offers firm, inspiring advice. “It’s Too Late” should certainly become his very own enduring soul masterpiece, and the loose-limbed funk they all make that drives “Come On” raises to the top the overall joyous feel of this — gotta be — future award-winner.

-Tom Clarke

  • Robert Finley
    “Age Don’t Mean A Thing”
    Sept. 30, 2016
    Big Legal Mess Records
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About Tom Clarke

From pre-war blues to the bluegrass of the Virginia hills, Tom Clarke has a passion for most any kind of deep-rooted American music, and has been writing about it for 23 years. He’s particularly fond of anything from Louisiana, and the 45-year timelines and ever-growing family trees of The Allman Brothers Band and Los Lobos.Tom’s reviews and articles have appeared in BluesPrint, the King Biscuit Times, Hittin’ The Note, Blues Revue, Elmore, Blues Music Magazine, and now, Tahoe Onstage.Tom and his wife Karen raised four daughters in upstate New York. They split their time between the Adirondack Mountains and coastal South Carolina.

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