Robert Finley : Black Bayou Review
Robert Finley’s Black Bayou: A Journey Through the Soul of the Bayou
In the complex tapestry of blues music, few artists manage to encapsulate the genre’s deep roots and evocative storytelling like Robert Finley. Releasing his new album, Black Bayou, on October 27, 2023, under Dan Auerbach’s Easy Eye Sound label, Finley brings his 69 years of life experiences and vast artistic acumen to bear in a collection that feels at once timeless and immediately necessary. This album is more than just another blues record; it is a poetic narrative that unravels the quintessence of Louisiana life, its rich culture, and the complex emotional threads that run through its people.
Finley collaborates with a cadre of exceptional musicians, with producer Dan Auerbach leading the way. Finley’s daughter and granddaughter, Christy Johnson and LaQuindrelyn McMahon, add poignant vocal dimensions to the album. The spontaneous approach to recording and the single-take philosophy contribute an authentic texture to the album that complements Finley’s rich vocal tones and storytelling prowess. Patrick Carney and Jeffrey Clemens on drums, Eric Deaton on bass, and Kenny Brown on guitar fill out the record with skillful, intuitive accompaniment, creating a sonically intricate tapestry that rivals any big-production blues record.
Starting with “Livin’ Out a Suitcase,” Finley immediately delves into the existential ponderings of a life spent on the road. However, it’s in tracks like “What Goes Around (Comes Around)” that the album vibrates with slow-burning funk, and the crescendoing chorus makes it a standout performance. The track boasts impressive guitar work, buzzing horns, and heartfelt backing vocals from Finley’s family.
“Sneakin’ Around” is an energetic exploration of betrayal set to a timeless rhythm, paying homage to the blues’ broad history. “Waste of Time” showcases Finley’s disdain for city life, blending heavy riffs with earthy rhythms to craft a narrative of contentment in simple living. It’s noteworthy that “Miss Kitty” strikes a different chord with its Black Keys influence evident through haunting vocals and echoing instrumentation.
The album’s climax arrives with “Alligator Bait,” a six-minute, talking blues saga that stands out as an emotional centerpiece. With guitar work from Auerbach and Brown that simmers and broils, Finley recounts a profoundly personal and disconcerting tale that closes the album on a poignant, reflective note.
Black Bayou feels like the natural progression from his previous autobiographical project, Sharecropper’s Son. While the latter was a dive into Finley’s life experiences, Black Bayou evolves into a sonic portrait of Louisiana itself. It is a homage to a place and a culture that shaped Finley’s artistic identity. He’s no longer just sharing his story; he’s telling the story of an entire region.
In essence, Black Bayou is a literary work set to blues chords. It presents life in all its complex hues—be it struggle, betrayal, celebration, or solitude. Dan Auerbach’s production adds a polished but raw finish, aligning perfectly with the tapestry of stories and emotions that Finley weaves. The duo, who have worked together multiple times, have reached a creative zenith with this latest collaboration. Black Bayou is not just a record; it is a storytelling masterpiece, and it invites the listener into a vivid world of emotion, culture, and unforgettable melody. This album reminders us that the blues, at its core, remains a form of narrative art, one that captures the complexities of human existence in a way few genres can. Robert Finley, with his deep voice and even deeper insights, emerges as a bluesman with the heart of a storyteller, and Black Bayou should be remembered as one of the most intricate and compelling blues albums of our time.
October 27, 2023
Easy Eye Sound