Trevor Finlay’s Bootleg: Above Average, Southern Fried Roots Rock & Blues

CD Review
Title: Bootleg
Artist: Trevor Finlay
Label: BKSA Records
Released: 2010
Stars: 3.5

Bootleg, by Winnipeg-born, Nashville-based, Trevor Finlay was recorded live on March 12, 2010 at Norm’s River Roadhouse in Nashville, TN. It falls somewhere between an EP and an album, sporting 7 kick-ass rock and blues tracks meant for a great bar party that’s being rewarded with some serious rug-cuttin’.

Finlay is one of those artists that I’d heard of by reputation but hadn’t experienced his music until now. I was missing out. After listening to Bootleg several times, I can’t wait to see him and his band play live!

Trevor Finlay’s a distinguished guitarist who has been playing since he was 9 years old and whose voice is comparable to Kim Wilson (The Fabulous Thunderbirds) and Gregg Allman. His lyrics are clever and catchy and while his music may not be terribly original, Bootleg is damn good for what it is: above average, electric guitar & keyboard-laden southern fried roots rock and blues. One can visualize these songs on a movie soundtrack for a hard-luck story set in the South.

Bootleg presents Trevor Finlay on vocals, guitar & VioLap (a unique acoustic & electric instrument that’s part violin and lap steel guitar created by Cole Clark Guitars), Warren Beck on keys, Dan Seymour on bass, Mike Catone on drums and Jennifer Friend on backing vocals and opens with a tribute to some memorable three-chord classics (Louie, Louie; Hang On Sloopy; Get Off My Cloud) complete with a honky tonk piano solo in “Three-Chord RocknRoll.” “Burning It In,” a song about love and temporary insanity, offers a memorable melody & guitar hook that you’d expect to hear from the likes of John Hiatt (whom Finlay happens to have opened for on tour). A Joan Jett-style guitar riff introduces “Last Minute Romance” which “ain’t no one night stand,” but rather blues rock highlighted with a wailing guitar solo and a Fabulous Thunderbird sound.

A standout on the EP is the powerful and haunting, up-tempo ballad “What I was Dying For”: a story about drug abuse and a deal gone bad. “Send My Mail To Nashville” is another rollicking, tongue-in-cheek, electric guitar scorcher about the opportunities that await a band in Music City. Another noticeable winner is “Ain’t Gonna Make It To The Dance” which features an exceptionally fine vocal performance from Finlay. Warren Beck’s keys are prominent on this N’awlins dance number that will have your cowboy boot-covered feet shuffling and your hips swaying all over that dusty clapboard floor. It also features an interesting VioLap solo from Finlay that goes on just a bit too long (song is 5:41) for my liking but overall doesn’t hinder the piece.

Bootleg closes with “That’s Gonna Leave A Mark”, another funky butt shaker with playful lyrics that features more fine ivory tinkling from Beck.

Trevor Finlay has released four critically acclaimed CDs prior to Bootleg and in early 2008, he decided to move from Canada to Nashville “to focus on his songwriting and performing in a town famous for its down-home Southern roots and musical creativity.”

“I can’t be easily pegged as a bluesman, a country artist or a rocker. There’s way too much music out there to have tunnel vision.” says Finlay. “I’m fascinated by people. As a songwriter I inevitably write about the multifarious ways in which people try to relate to each other. There are all sorts of different angles that you can look at all this. That’s the stuff I really enjoy writing about.”

Finlay’s Bootleg has been a choice discovery for me, and according to his website, Bootleg 2 has already been recorded live at Tucson’s in Ottawa, Ontario in October of 2010. There’s also a 5-track Unplugged EP available, so you can get all 3 for the bargain price of $18.99 (plus shipping & handling).

Don’t just trust my judgment, listen to Trevor Finlay for yourself and see if you can sit still while you’re at it!

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