What does it sound like?:
Jeff Finlin has been recording for many years and this is his 9th album.
I’m not sure how, but I’ve never come across him before, although he plays a style of music totally in tune with my preferences. It’s a case not just that I’ve not heard anything by him, but I’d never heard of him (or at least taken notice).
I’m a regular listener to Bob Harris and so searched his website archive (which lists his playlists from every programme for many, many years) and see he has played songs from Jeff fairly regularly over the years, though far less frequently than is the case with such mediocre fare as from the likes of Zac Brown.
I haven’t paid attention to them and that has been a grievous omission on my part, a gap in my musical education that needs to be filled. Having said that, it is something that I can understand from hearing this album, because it is one packed with massive charm, a lot of beauty but isn’t a record that has obvious, immediate hooks. It inveigles its way into your consciousness with subtlety, but once it’s there it’s not just hooked into your psyche, it’s anchored.
Publicity suggests that Finlin is akin to Ryan Adams, Tom Petty or Tom Waits. Maybe those names were selected because of their larger profiles, thus making comparison easier, giving potential listeners a certain palette to guide expectations (if that isn’t too mixed a metaphor). They aren’t influences that I readily detect. For me the references that sprang to mind are Duane Eddy (there is a fair bit of twang in these songs, though more subdued and less echoey), Tony Joe White, Chris Smither, Angelo Badalamenti’s original Twin Peaks soundtrack and even occasional traces of Dr John (mostly in the vocal inflection rather than in musical style, which is weird because he’s from Cleveland not New Orleans).
The twang starts with opening song Her Love Will Light The Way. A drum beat is joined by a pulsing bass then the twang. It’s simple but immensely effective in drawing the listened in.
He’s lyrically accomplished with a bent toward the religious and metaphysical (there’s a clue in the album title). Allusions to the light, as in the chorus of Her Love Will Light The Way,
Naked In the fire
There inside the fray
Her love will light the way.
We have a song titled Babylon (driving hard and wide under the big black sun), another God Only Knows.
Many of Jeff’s melodies are gorgeous. There’s one song here, Love Along The Wires, that has me going back to it again and again to listen. It reminds me of how I reacted to Little Feat’s Long Distance Love, all those long, long years ago. I just want to immerse myself in the melody and the yearning of the lyrics and have it on repeat play.
There’s a sequence of questions Jeff asks in the song that resonates with me, a life’s journey expressed as a sense of seeking:
Where’s a good man go for breakin’?
Where’s the rambler go to kneel?
Where’s the earth go when its quaking to find what what isn’t… isn’t real?
Where’s the prophet go for saving?
Where’s the moonlight going to shine?
Another gem is God Only Knows. The only similarities to The Beach Boys is the song title and it being a beautiful song. A recurring female voice punctuates the song with some very languid scat singing while Jeff sings of the object of his love.
I mentioned a Tony Joe White sound, which is confined to a single song, I Gave You Back Last Night, which has that swamp-rock feel that TJW has made pretty much his own.
The closing track is the title track. Over a strummed guitar and a guitar treated to sound like a sitar, (taking the twang a long way from Duane Eddy) and a recurring piano motif it’s a song that builds. The metaphysical reappears in lines like “Numbering all our days in the cosmos that swirls, I find the guru in the girl” or “falling through the stars your voice might fade” and the overall effect is utterly beguiling. A fine end to a very fine album.
I feel there is a circularity to the album, with closing track linking nicely back to the opener in terms of the overall dreamlike feel within both songs.
Jeff Finlin has produced an album that deserves wide exposure; it’s a collection to sooth the the most troubled soul as you immerse yourself in the beauty and warmth of mellow but always engaging songs.
What does it all *mean*?
There are loads of artists out there producing fabulous work that seems destined to reach only small audiences.
This is a prime example
Goes well with…
Good friends a decent bottle of red wine
Might suit people who like…
A whole load of people. While I said I don’t hear the Ryan Adams or Tom Petty influences, if you like them I reckon you’ll like this. Also anyone sharing love for Chris Smither and Tony Joe White and anyone you can think of associated with those artists.