Whatever you think of the Black Keys, its vocalist/guitarist Dan Auerbach has a way of producing a record. It started with Dr. John’s “Locked Down”, which won a grammy in 2013, now it’s there with Robert Finley’s “Going’ Platinum!” You might look at Robert Finley and wonder, like I did, who the fuck is this guy? Like seriously, who are you, dude? Where’d you come from? Supposedly Finley was busking somewhere in Arkansas, deemed legally blind and forced to retire from both the airforce and carpentry, when a non-profit named “Music Maker” gave Finley a musical comeback. Shit, I thought it was only producers dressed in tight button up silk shirts that “discovered” big-titted stars on the street; and I don’t see no tits on Robert. The fact that there are people out there giving lifetime musicians a shot fills me with joy that I thought the music industry completely covered in shit years ago. No, shut up, you’re crying!
So, Robert Finley’s last album called, “Age Don’t Mean a Thing” made in 2016 is fucking great. The title track is beautiful. When this motherfucker sings the words, “age don’t mean a thing” and you hear it knowing all the life he has led, it fills me with joy and hope and all these other scary words for a cynic. It’s a soul album filled with big bands and horns and everything. Totally worth a listen. Supposedly it was good enough to pick the ears of Auerbach as well.
This new album is definitely made by Auerbach. Actually, he co-wrote most of the songs (besides the ones from John Prine, Pat McLaughlin and Nick Lowe). So it has that old school but heavy sound of the Black Keys, but with a way more interesting singer than Dan (I think he would even admit that). In my opinion, Auerbach was made to be behind the board and produce. As a frontman? Meh. Each track on this album is completely unique, but somehow cohesive as fuck. That’s just good production. It’s got that dirty and raw horn section, that laid back groove that’s totally in the pocket, it’s got the sensibilities of an album made during a soul filled era but filled with the punchiness of now. And without Finley’s voice, the album falls apart. He’s a great frontman. I can’t believe a couple years ago this guy was busking somewhere in Arkansas. Nobody is doing him any favours, this isn’t an album to help the old man out. He hits that mic and everyone has to catch up to his professionalism. He sings this shit like he’s been in the studio since ’64. At the end of “You Don’t Have To Do Right,” he asks Dan behind the board, “You got it?” as in, “did you just record that fucking magic young blood, cause I ain’t doing it again”.
This album is a must have for any blues/soul lover. But for anyone else, this is an album made for those days drinking a beer outside. It’s a good summer road trip album. And there’s a reason for this. It’s difficult at times to have that hope Finley gives you through his voice, especially during winter. It’s difficult to believe that the world has enough goodness to give a man at his age a career. It’s for those few moments where that hardened cynical shell surrounding that mushy thing inside you cracks a bit. It’s not that goth-punk-alternative rock album that “teaches” you the world ain’t fair. This is an album that says, “Hey bitch, shut your fucking mouth for a second and enjoy the sunshine. Enjoy your friends and family. Who knows, maybe you’ll even die one day with a smile on that face and surrounded by people you love.”