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Sharecropper's Son

by Robert Finley

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claytonknight thumbnail
claytonknight The man makes Otis Redding look like your third grader's school musical... Favorite track: Souled Out On You.
Carsten Pieper
Carsten Pieper thumbnail
Carsten Pieper I'm buying so much heady, proggy stuff here on Bandcamp, but every now and then it feels just great to get some "real music" for a change. And real music this is. Robert, as others may have mentioned before me, has a really great voice and songs and production are top notch, too. Souly blues or bluesy soul, whatever, great music! Favorite track: Souled Out On You.
Dietmar Leibecke
Dietmar Leibecke thumbnail
Dietmar Leibecke Southern soul, blues, gospel, country and a fantastic voice with an unbelievable range. Real music for real people. An incredible piece of music. Favorite track: Souled Out On You.
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My Story 03:14
Country Boy 05:44
All My Hope 04:14


Robert Finley’s singing is as primal as an alligator and 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 a single phrase—to tell the story of his life in song.

The album was produced by Dan Auerbach for his Easy Eye Sound label and recorded with an all-star band who tracked blues, soul, gospel, and rock-infused chapters of Finley’s remarkable life. Sharecropper’s Son perfectly frames the 67-year-old America’s Got Talent semi-finalist life story, weaving Finley’s personal tales of picking cotton, country childhood, hardship on city streets, jail time, the pain and joy of love, the search for a better life and the dream of salvation into a spellbinding musical tale.

“I try to open up my heart and keep it real every time I sing,” explains Finley, who has lived nearly all his days in and around the farmlands and swamps between his birthplace, Winnsboro, and his current home, Bernice, in North-Central Louisiana. “We made this album after we all went on tour together, and we were ready. I was ready to tell my story, and Dan and his guys knew me so well by then that they knew it almost like I do, so they had my back all the way.”

You can hear that in how 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 Finley sings about his raising “out in the red hot sun, where the work is never done.”

Cut-by-cut, this follow-up to Finley’s critically acclaimed 2017’s Easy Eye Sound release Going Platinum! bristles with the visceral energy that can only be captured by creatively charged musicians playing live and spontaneously in the studio. Auerbach dips into a deep well of styles and sounds throughout. The band includes guitar expertise from Auerbach himself, alongside Mississippi hill country’s Kenny Brown - a blues veteran of R.L. Burnside band, alongside sudio legends Russ Pahl, Billy Sanford and Louisiana guitarist Billy Sanford. They are joined by other notables: keyboardist and songwriter Bobby Wood and drum legend Gene Chrisman, who played a historic role in Memphis and Nashville music working with everyone from Elvis to Wilson Pickett. The line-up’s completed by bass contributions from dap king Nick Movshon, blues legend Eric Deaton and former Johnny Cash bandmate Dave Roe, as well as a full horn section, and percussion from Sam Bacco.

Of course, the fire behind the conflagrant performances on Sharecropper’s Son is Finley, who was so deeply in the zone throughout that his lyrics and vocal approach for two 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. Such untrodden terrain is just another of the many settings where Finley feels comfortable. “When we play live, I always leave room in the show for lyrics I make up on the spot while the band hits a groove,” he explains. “I guess the younger generation calls it free-styling, but for me, it’s just speaking from my mind straight from my soul. It needs to be something I lived, and then I can just tell people about it. One of the things I love about music is that, when I was a boy growing up in the South, nobody wanted to hear what I had to say or what I thought about anything. But when I started putting it in songs, people listened.”

Auerbach’s relationship with Finley began as a listener. He was knocked out by Finley after watching a video of him perform. “His voice was just out of control, and I thought, ‘I’ve got to get him into the studio,’ ” Auerbach recounts. So the next year he invited Finley to Easy Eye Sound Studio in Nashville to record a soundtrack for Murder Ballads, a graphic novel. And while Auerbach knew Finley’s voice was big, he had no idea that his personality was just as large. “He walked in like he was straight out of the swamp,” Auerbach attests. “He had leather pants, snakeskin boots, a big country & Western belt buckle, a leather cowboy hat and a three-quarter-length leather duster.” The final touch was the folding cane the legally blind Finley wore on his hip, in a holster. “Basically, he was dressed for national television,” Auerbach adds.

The result of those sessions, which lasted only two afternoons, was Finley’s Easy Eye Sound debut, Going Platinum! That album was a jolting announcement of the arrival of a soon-to-be-legendary voice and talent, and lifted Finley’s career into the spotlight. Now, Sharecropper’s Son ups the ante with a band that—through sharing the stage and studio with the elder performer—has crafted an arresting and dynamic ensemble sound tailored for his eclectic musical interests. This is the first album Finley’s recorded that fully showcases his autobiographical songwriting—allowing him to open his heart and mind to the world. Except for the closing spiritual “All My Hope,” all the songs were written by Finley, with co-writing by Auerbach, Wood, and well-respected country songwriter Pat McLaughlin on various tracks.

“Robert is a truly great man, and writing with him—getting that kind of window to his life—was an amazing experience,” says Auerbach. “He’s legally blind and grew up working hard alongside his family on a farm and singing in the church. He taught himself how to play guitar. He was a helicopter repairman in Germany, in the Army, where he played and toured Europe with an Army band. He sang gospel and blues on the streets. He’s a highly skilled carpenter. He’s raised a family and his kids love him. And while he was doing all of that, he developed one of the most unique, powerful and poetic styles I’ve ever heard. And all of that comes through on Sharecropper’s Son.”

Born in 1954, one of eight children, Finley helped his family, who were Sharecroppers, pick cotton throughout his childhood, during the Jim Crow era south. “It was an interesting childhood” shares Finley, “but there wasn't much fun. The work was hard, but it wasn't the work that bothered us. Getting paid was the problem.” His father Joe Finley was a deeply religious man and banned playing any blues music in the home. Finley’s early musical exposure was mainly singing gospel music in church and in a family gospel quartet. Later he discovered “the devil’s music” and became a fan of Elvis Presley, Jimi Hendrix, Chuck Berry, Ray Charles, James Brown, Bobby Womack and Joe Simon.

When he was 7 years old the family moved to Winnsboro, LA, and he attended a segregated school but dropped out in the 10th grade to get a job. “We stayed in the neighbourhood most of our childhood. Sometimes a group of us would walk out together,” Finley recalled. “It wasn’t really all that safe to be by yourself because you still had people doing all sorts of crazy crap. The army was the first place I was around white people and people of different nationalities.” Following his military service, Finley became a skilled carpenter. This all changed when he began losing his sight. Finley is legally blind and has no sight in one eye and tunnel vision in the other. His brother suffers from the same condition.

He believes the sight in his good eye was improved by the power of prayer, and Finley’s faith has also helped him focus on launching his music career in his 60’s. According to Finley, “losing my sight gave me the perspective to see my true destiny.” His delayed ascent has been swift. 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, Finley 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 Finley on the show, also provides some backing vocals for Sharecropper’s Son.

Reflecting on his new album, Finley says, “I want people to understand that I can’t be kept in a box. I like to do all kinds of music—everything that means anything to me, from gospel to blues to soul to country to rock ‘n’ roll. And I like to stand out and be different, and do things that reach young and older people. What I want everybody to know from my own experience is that you’re never too young to dream, and that you’re never too old for your dream to come true.”


released May 21, 2021

2021, © 2021 Easy Eye Sound, Distributed by Concord.


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Robert Finley Bernice, Louisiana


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