Louisiana bluesman Robert Finley set to play Double Decker early Saturday afternoon

Published 3:10 pm Thursday, April 27, 2017

Age really doesn’t mean a thing to Robert Finley, a 63-year old bluesman who has been crafting his music for years before finally releasing his debut album in 2016.

“Age Don’t Mean A Thing” has been met with positive reviews since its release last September.

Although for the most part, Finley was a bluesman, his record producer Bruce Watson keyed on more of his soulful compositions. With production credits from Watson and Oxford native Jimbo Mathus, Finley traveled to Memphis to record the album with members of the Bo-Keys. He penned all but two of tracks, highlighted by an autobiographical title song, on “Age Don’t Mean a Thing,” evoking influences from Booker T and the MGs, James Brown, and B. B. King. Music journalists were highly receptive to Finley’s album, particularly his refreshing take on Southern soul.

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Fans of the blues will get to see it on full display Saturday when Finley takes the Double Decker stage at 1 p.m.

“Put me last on the bill,” Finley said, “because the party’s going to go as high as it’s going to go when I’m playing.”

From someone else’s mouth that might be braggadocio, but when Finley says it, he’s just telling the truth.

Onstage, he’s infectious. It’s the whole package — his sound, his songs, his energy and his look.

Hailing from Louisiana, he mixes a Memphis-to-Texas electric southern grit with Nashville-clever songs. He’s gangly and graceful with an indomitable smile that radiates beneath his black ridge-top hat.

“I don’t believe in doing a lot of holding back,” Finley said. “I’m going to give you everything I’ve got.”

At 11 years old, he began playing a guitar he had purchased from a thrift store. Gospel music played a crucial role in his early development. “I always went to gospel quartet groups and I always took the front row seat, and I just watched their fingers,” Finley said. In 1970, he joined the army, originally to serve as a helicopter technician in Germany. Upon his arrival, however, Finley accommodated the army band’s need for a guitarist and bandleader by traveling with the group throughout Europe until he was discharged.

After returning to Louisiana, Finley worked as a part-time street performer, leader of the gospel group Brother Finley and the Gospel Sisters, and as a carpenter. In 2015, Music Maker, a non-profit organization that supports aging blues musicians, discovered Finley busking before a gig in Arkansas, who was deemed legally blind and forced to retire from carpentry. With their help, Finely made a musical comeback, featuring him in packaged tours with acts like Robert Lee Coleman and Alabama Slim.

Since then, he hasn’t looked back on his newfound musical success, proving that age really doesn’t mean a thing.