The 64-year-old guitarist and singer found fame late in life but found a love of music at an early age. Like many singers, Finley grew up singing gospel in his rural Louisiana hometown, got a guitar and found himself deep in blues, soul and funk. After being a bandleader in the Army, Finley went solo but stopped doing music professionally.
Finley would gig from time to time but worked as a carpenter for most of his adult life until he became legally blind. Where his eyes failed, music sustained, and the guitarist was “discovered” busking during Arkansas’ King Biscuit Blues Festival in 2015. That discovery led to a debut album, “Age Don’t Mean a Thing,” on Fat Possum and Big Legal Mess Records in 2016. Black Keys head Dan Auerbach took notice and the two collaborated on 2017’s “Goin’ Platinum,” as well as Auerbach’s Easy Eye Sound Revue where Finley was named a breakout star.
“You can sit on a porch in a rocking chair at any age,” Finley told the New York Daily News. “To be 64 years old and be able to go to the floor and come back up, it signifies that you can’t judge a book by its cover.”
Much like contemporaries Charles Bradley and Bettye Lavette, Finley brings a high energy performance that’s both contemporary and timeless. “Goin’ Platinum” mixes salt-of-the-earth storytelling and electric blues with Stax Records-esque soul and funk on tracks such as “You Don’t Have to Do Right” and taps Auerbach’s take on ballads for the record’s closer, “Empty Arms.”
“We did a great job on the recording but it’s not over yet, it’s gotta be done before the live audience, that’s when my real task comes in. What comes from the heart goes to the heart; constantly pouring your soul into it so that when you deliver it, people can feel what you feeling,” Finley said. “To me that’s the ultimate challenge, to get them to feel what you feel. And if they do, you will know it by the end of the song.”
Finley will perform at the Mercury Lounge in Manhattan Wednesday night. Tickets are $20.