New Video: JOVM Mainstay Robert Finley Shares Swampy and Swaggering “Sneakin’ Around”

 69 year-old Winnsboro, LA-born, Bernice, LA-based singer/songwriter and JOVM mainstay Robert Finley grew up one of eight children in a family of sharecroppers. As a child, Finley as unable to regularly attend school and often worked with his family in the cotton fields. When he was a teenager, he briefly attended a segregated school, but he was forced to drop out in the 10th grade to help the family out financially.

Finley has lived a full, complicated and often messy life: He’s an army veteran. He was also a skilled carpenter. He has survived house fires, a bad accident and went through a divorce. He started to lose his sight in his early 60s as a result of glaucoma. And although, he was forced to retire from carpentry, Finley realized that he now had an opportunity to pursue a lifelong dream — becoming a professional singer and musician.

The Louisiana-born and-based JOVM mainstay believes that his sight was improved by the power of prayer — and that his faith has also helped him focus on launching a music career in his 60s. According to Finley “losing my sight, gave me the perspective to see my true identity.”

Acclaimed musician, producer and Easy Eye Sound label head Dan Auerbach immediately saw Finley’s potential, quickly proclaiming that the Louisiana-born and-based artist is “the greatest living soul singer.” As Auerbach recalls in press notes, “He walked in like he was straight out of the swamp.” He adds, “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 went on to produce Finley’s 2017 breakthrough sophomore album Goin’ Platinum, an album released to widespread critical acclaim from the likes of the Associated Press, who praised Finley’s ability to lend “instant credibility to any song” and The Observer, who wrote “Finley’s versatile voice ranges from prime Motown holler to heartbroken falsetto croon.” Finley went on to support the album with international touring across 10 countries — with his live show drawing praise from a number of publications, including The New York Times and several others. He was also profiled on PBS NewsHour, which led him to becoming a contestant on the 2019 season of America’s Got Talent, eventually reaching the semi-finals. 

Finley’s third album 2021’s Sharecropper’s Son continued the JOVM mainstay’s successful collaboration with Auerbach, and features songwriting and cowrites from Finley, Auerbach, Bobby Wood and Pat McLaughlin. And much like other Easy Sound releases, the album featured an All-Star backing band of acclaimed players that included Auerbach (guitar); Kenny Brown (guitar), a member of R.L Burnside‘s backing band; studio legends Russ Pahl (pedal steel) and Louisiana-born, Nashville-based Billy Sanford (guitar); Bobby Wood (keys and as previously mentioned songwriting); Gene Chrisman (drums), who’s a Memphis and Nashville music legend; as well as contributions from The Dap Kings‘ Nick Movshon (bass), Eric Deaton (guitar); Dave Roe (bass), who was member of Johnny Cash‘s backing band; Sam Bacco (percussion) and a full horn section. 

Sharecropper’s Son may arguably be the most personal album of Finley’s growing catalog, drawing directly from his life and experience. “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,” Finley says in press notes. “Working in the cotton fields wasn’t a pleasant place to be, but it was part of my life. I went from the cotton fields to Beverly Hills. We stayed in the neighborhood most of our childhood. It wasn’t really all that safe to be out by yourself. 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.”

Finley’s highly-anticipated fourth album, Black Bayou is slated for an October 27, 2023 release through Easy Eye Sound. Black Bayou sees the JOVM mainstay continuing his wildly successful collaboration with Dan Auerbach. Much like its immediate predecessor, the new album’s material is a deeply personal portrait — but this time of Finley’s Louisiana, from an insider, who has lived there all of his life. Sonically, the material coalesces all of the vibrant sounds of the bayou, including gospel, blues, rock and more.

The result is a vivid collection of songs that depicts life in North Louisiana — with Finley playing the role of charismatic and knowledgeable tour guide. “I think that’s one of the biggest things about the album is it tells the truth and the truth will set you free,” Finley told American Songwriter.

“It’s amazing to realize how much of an impact Louisiana has had on the world’s music,” Dan Auerbach says in press notes, “and Robert embodies all of that. He can play a blues song. He can play early rock and roll. He can play gospel. He can do anything, and a lot of that has to do with where he’s from.”

Recorded at Auerbach’s Nashville-based Easy Eye Sound Studio, Black Bayou saw the pair adopting a much different creative process. Rather than write songs beforehand, as they did on 2017’s Goin’ Platinum and 2021’s Sharecropper’s Son, they devised everything in the studio, with Auerbach leading a backing band of some of the world’s best players, including: Auerbach’s Black Keys bandmate Patrick Carney (drums), G. Love & Special Sauce‘s Jeffrey Clemens (drums), Eric Deaton (bass), legendary Hill Country blues guitarist Kenny Brown and vocalists Christy Johnson and LaQuindrelyn McMahon, Finley’s daughter and granddaughter.

They worked quickly, devising their parts spontaneously and usually getting everything in one take. “I started singing, and they started playing,” Finley explains. “That’s how we made the album. It wasn’t written out. Nobody used a pencil and paper. We just sang and played together in the studio.”  The album and its material reveals Finley as a truly original Louisiana storyteller,. who evokes the place and its unique — and deeply influential culture — for the rest of the world.

Earlier this year, I wrote about Black Bayou‘s first single “What Goes Around (Comes Around),” a swampy, blues rocker that subtly recalls Creedence Clearwater Revival‘s “Green River” with the song built around an irresistibly funky and shuffling 12 bar blues-driven groove paired around the collaborators’ unerring knack for anthemic hooks and choruses. The song serves as the perfect vehicle for his whiskey soaked gospel-like croons and shouts warning the listener about the weighty impact of karma.

“You gotta reap what you sow… do to another what you would have done to you. Be real, tell the truth. For all those out there hurting, you just have to keep the faith,” the JOVM mainstay says of the song. “I’ve seen it over the years, especially with my career – you got to put joy out into the world and it will come back. It’s never been anything short of the truth for me.” 

Black Bayou’s second and latest single “Sneakin’ Around” is a classic blues and soul tale of deception, deceit and a bit of deserved comeuppance, featuring Finley’s heartbroken yet defiantly proud narrator describing how he found out his lover was repeatedly cheating on him. This is paired with a swampy and gritty, Motown-meets-Muscle Shoals-like groove complete with a big horn line, and a scorching guitar solo.

“Whatever is in the dark is gonna come to the light, so don’t play around,” Finley says.

Directed by Andy M. Hawkes, the accompanying video for “Sneakin’ Around” continues a run of stylishly shot visuals that features the dapper Finley surrounded by a collection of young beauties at the bar, as he tells his tale. We also see Finley performing the song in the bar and in slick studio footage. Throughout, the video, we see Finley as a swaggering, larger-than-life figure with stories to tell.

The JOVM mainstay will be touring to support the new album. Although this run of dates is mostly throughout Europe, there are a couple of Stateside shows, including an October 26, 2023 stop at The Knitting Factory at Baker Falls. Check out the tour dates below.

Tour dates:

Wednesday, Aug. 9, 2023 – Nashville, Tn – Brooklyn Bowl Nashville With the Black Keys
Saturday Aug. 12, 2023 – Rauma, Finland – Rauma Blues 2023
Thursday Oct. 26, 2023 – New York, NY – Knitting Factory 
Saturday, 4 November 2023 – Groningen, NL – Take Root Festival
Sunday, 5 November 2023 – Brussels, BE – Rotonde @ Botanique
Wednesday, 8 November 2023 – London, UK – Jazz Café
Thursday, 9 November 2023 – Manchester, UK – Blues Kitchen
Friday, 10 November 2023 – Pandrup, DK – Blues Heaven Festival
Tuesday, 14 November 2023 – Toulouse, FR – Salle Nougaro
Wednesday, 15 November 2023 – Saint-Nazaire, FR – VIP
Thursday, 16 November 2023 – Amiens, FR – La Lune des Pirates
Saturday, 18 November 2023 – Šumperk, CZ – Blues Alive Festival
Monday, 20 November 2023 – Tourcoing, FR – Le Grand Mix
Tuesday, 21 November 2023 – Paris, FR – Maroquinerie
Thursday, 23 November 2023 – La Roche-Sur-Yon, FR – Quai M
Friday, 24 November 2023 – La Rochelle, FR – La Sirène
Saturday, 25 November 2023 – Castres, FR – Lo Boegason
Sunday, 26 November 2023 – Saint-Etienne, FR – Le Fil