Jeff Finlin goes pop? No way! Finlin has been one of the stalwarts of music in organic form from the beginning, yet there it is. Track one of The Guru In the Girl (“Love Will Light the Way”) with its pop production and background vocals straight out of the sixties major labels. I would say “Say it isn't so, Jeff” but for the fact that after the initial shock I found myself liking it. In fact, I found myself liking it a lot. There is something in the combination--- Jeff's unique voice and songwriting style mixed in a slightly more pop context--- that appeals to me.
If you know nothing about Finlin, allow me point you toward a voice as unique as that of Bob Dylan or Tom Waits, one you recognize at the first utterance once you've heard it before. He is a poet and a damn good one which puts him on the level of Leonard Cohen, as far as I'm concerned, and I truly mean that. He has a sense of song that while is Finlin all the way is universal, and he has a sense of self. As good as Guru is, he takes no credit. “(The songs come through the gift if my experience.. The gift of my creative abilities.. The gift of my life... I take credit for nothing.. Can i take credit for my being for .. My breath.. My birth.. No its all a gift... That's where the joy comes from..,” he wrote recently when I asked about his creative process. I have heard similar things in the past. As if some of my favorite musicians have no idea how the process works. “They are all just gifts.. I don't write 'em.. I just write 'em down... I put down what comes in.. You get what I get.. I'm so not in charge,” he explained.
What we get this time around is rock, pop, and poetry. We get two musicians, Finlin and BJ Baartmans (yes, only two played on the album, besides a drummer on tracks one and three), and another string of first class Finlin tunes. We get topnotch production, probably partially thanks to the focus recording with so few people can provide. We get lyrics as good as they come, poetry put to music.
Unfortunately, I cannot embed tracks from Bandcamp due to the program used by No Depression, but I can provide links. Hearing the songs all the way through will help explain. The aforementioned “Love Will Light the Way?” Click here. “Lost In Your Blue Eyes?” Click here. And that is just the tip of the iceberg. Some of the songs borrow from the fifties and sixties standards, some I call folk noir, some have hints of jazz. And they change each time I hear them. Like they are alive and morphing each time I put them to bed. Like they are a part of my psyche.
I felt that the first time I heard Finlin's music. The Tao of Motor Oil made me chuckle--- just the title--- but when I heard it I knew it was something special. I have heard his entire catalog at this point and consider them all special. An artist named Ash Ganley turned me onto him when I asked if there was anyone else in Colorado worth checking out. Jeff Finlin, he said without hesitation. I couldn't disregard the suggestion. Ganley himself is no slouch.
I will not say this is the best album Finlin has done to-date nor will I say that it is his most commercial. I don't believe he is commercial at all, whatever that means anymore. But I will say that this is his most accessible. The melodies are there and the arrangements are magic to my ears. Check out the links above and if you like what you hear, I recommend checking out his earlier recordings. They are testament to the talent that is Jeff Finlin, whether he takes credit or not.
This is another contender for Album of the Year, among others. 2017 is turning out to be one hell of a year for music. You can quote me.