When your first album doesn’t come out until you’re in your 60s, you’ve got a backlog of stories to tell. And if you’ve lived a life like Robert Finley’s, those stories could fill one hundred albums. Alas, Sharecropper’s Son is just Finley’s second release, following 2017’s Going Platinum!, both on Dan Auerbach’s Easy Eye Sound label. But this time around, Finley is mining a past rich with experiences growing up in Jim Crow-era Louisiana and attending a segregated school, before eventually becoming a carpenter and busking on the streets of Arkansas. That woozy, soulful voice enriched with honeyed rasp and honed singing gospel in church as a child gets you firmly in its grasp from the opening notes and doesn’t let up for even a minute.
Finley is a fierce storyteller, whether he’s vividly setting the scene of doing hard labor as a young boy on the album’s title track (“out in the heat of the day / me and my brothers were prayin’ for rain / but we still gotta haul that hay”); finding empathy and humanity in everyone he meets, no matter where he goes, in the epic “I Can Feel Your Pain” (“When I look out and see your faces … I don’t know your situation / But I can feel your pain”); or finding wisdom to impart in the reflection of his own life on “My Story” (“You’re never too young to dream / never too old to live / reach out and hug the ones you love / cause it’s never too late to give”). Backed up by the salty tang of Auerbach’s guitar and a handful of legendary session musicians, these tunes ooze with blues, soul and rock grooves.
Sharecropper’s Son acts as a memoir for Finley, who has endured and overcome unimaginable hardship, but found hope in his faith and his music. And even amidst the struggles chronicled on this record, Finley finds the undeniable butt-shaking soul of each and every story. Just try to sit still when you hear “Souled Out On You” and “Make Me Feel Alright.” Finley may be writing songs that sound this good at 67, but he’s just getting started.