Q&A with multitalented Allen Finney - steeped in roots and emerges with unique expressions his own style

"There is no Blues past. Or future. It just is. And if I want, there are plenty upon plenty of films and recordings."

Allen Finney: Walkin' With The Blues

Allen Finney is an American (Michigan) born, multitalented musician, based in Sweden. Steeped in the roots traditions of American folk, rock, country, blues, and jazz, Allen Finney emerges with unique expressions in his own musical style. Some compare his voice and vision to J.J. Cale's and Bob Dylan's. Allen says: The failures and mistakes have been many, but so have the successes and the magic moments.  And the best thing is, I still love to just pick up my guitar and play. Through all of it--highs and lows, joy and despair: Me and my guitar. I grew up in Sanford, Michigan, a dot on the map, in the '50s.  Big, flashy cars and Rock and Roll. Top 40 radio, but some R&B and Blues like Jimmy Reed's "Big Boss Man" got through. And Elvis.  The King. Yes, and later on, Elvis and Jerry Lee Lewis and Little Richard and Chuck Berry...gone. And we're left with Bobby Rydell and that crap. I got into Folk music in '63, and bought Miss Gibson on June 4, 1964. And we're still together.  Chicago, Toronto, Hollywood, San Francisco, New York, London, Paris, Stockholm. An episode on the T.V. series "Medical Center." The Roundhouse in London. Toured with Ricet Barrier all over France. Did solo, warm up act for J.J. Cale at the Olympia, Dire Straits at the old Roman Theatre in Orange, France, Canned Heat in Biarritz, Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow, Weather Report and others. Also had a song, in French, on the Top 40, "Les Champs de Beton." Now I'm in Sweden. Many great gigs. I reckon, in my "career," I've played around 3,000 gigs. O.K. In Sweden: An LP with "Sneaky Pete's."                       (Allen Finney / Photo by Anna-Karin Strand Nilsson)

And we backed up Clarence "The Frogman" Henry at the Jazz&Blues Festival and he invited us to New Orleans where we had a ball. Two CDs with "Fat City Blues," one of them "Live at Kaos." Yes Kaos, in Stockholm's Old Town where I played, solo and with various bands around 1,000 times. I've toured all over Sweden, from Kiruna to Falsterbo, and Denmark and Norway.  Still no Finland. A CD, "Allen Finney and Ebb," which led to a spot on a big morning TV show.  Oh yeah, I did a lot of TV and radio in France, both with Ricet and promoting my single. And a CD, which I really like, "Fogetto," with the Allen Finney Combo, featuring Gunnar M. Lidström, of all the guitarists I've played with, my favorite. A smokin' wizard! And the beat goes on. I'll get into my thoughts on your questions and wherever that leads me on the next session. About music and touring and gigs in general: You do these things and, at the time, you just do them. There's getting to the gig and setting up and chasing women and what's for dinner and the drinking and so on for better or worse and some out of the way gig with no expectations and 30 people in the audience turns out to be one of the best and that's what we live for, those magic moments, what keeps us going through all of the shit because there ain't nothin', and I mean nothin' better than being on stage when it's Happening. That's why we do it.

Interview by Michael Limnios

What do you learn about yourself from the blues music and culture? What does the blues mean to you?

I have an idea about the culture. There was a lot of Country music around when I grew up. When I re-listen to Hank Williams and those guys, ya know, they were singing about the same things: Heartbreak, being poor and struggling to get by.  Same stuff. And those Country Blues cats, Son House, Mississippi John Hurt, et. al., were from the countryside. Rural. Small town America. Farms. Just like me. But different. Those Country guys and Blues guys didn't mix it up socially, but they sure listened to and "borrowed" from each other. And then there's Ray Charles. Did it all. And didn't B.B. King refer to Jimmie Rodgers "(the yodeling brakeman," "The father of Country music"), as "a Blues singer who happened to be white."? I happen to prefer Blues music. Something about those "blue" notes, the string bending and the slide and so on. Hitting notes that aren't on the European 12-note scale. Maybe it appeals to my Irish DNA.

How do you describe Allen Finney sound and songbook? What characterize your music philosophy?

My "sound" is all the music I heard, and what I liked got filtered in through my thick skull: Folk music, Folk Blues, Rock 'n' Roll, R&B, Soul, Jazz, Gospel, Pop, Classical, World. I do a lot of my own stuff, which sounds a lot like the other stuff, but with my own feel.

What were the reasons that you started the Blues/Folk/Rock researches and harmonica experiments?

I never started. I developed.

"It (Blues) helps. Without it, it would be worse. But America is still racist. Big time." (Photo by Lennart Brorsson)

Are there any memories from gigs, jams, and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?

It would take a book. Like the first time I heard Jimi Hendrix. Where and when and what it felt like and at least three pages right there.

What do you miss most nowadays and what are your hopes and fears for the future of Blues?

There is no Blues past. Or future. It just is. And if I want, there are plenty upon plenty of films and recordings. My "hopes and fears for the future of..." I got that one--Like I say in one of my songs: "Look at Ancient History, read the news today.  Long as people walk this planet, the Blues is here to stay."

Make an account of the case of blues in Sweden. Which is the most interesting period in local blues scene?

Look at "Jefferson" magazine for a full account. Those guys know much better than me. In fact, they know ME better than me.

What are the lines that connect the legacy of Blues from United States and UK to Scandinavia and Sweden?

Well, obviously the English bands of the 60s. The Stones. Yardbirds. John Mayall's Bluesbreakers. That's what the Swedes listened to. And that's what US listened to. Yes, sadly, it took the young English cats to turn us on to what we had at home. And they did, and it was great for everybody, especially cats like Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf and so on. But it gets all mixed up. I knew about Jimmy Reed and Robert Johnson and John Lee Hooker before that. Who was schoolin' who? Don't matter. It happened. Was happenin'. Still happenin'. Never stopped happenin'.

What has made you laugh lately and what touched (emotionally) you from the local circuits?

Bill Burr. "What has touched me"? Lisa Lystam Family Band.  Shoutin' Red.  Dag and Calle and those other "young cats" up in Hedamora. Playing with Jair-Rohm Wells at Engelen last Saturday.

What is the impact of Blues music and culture to the racial, political and socio-cultural implications?

Glad you asked. My opinion? It helps. Without it, it would be worse. But America is still racist. Big time.

"My sound is all the music I heard, and what I liked got filtered in through my thick skull: Folk music, Folk Blues, Rock 'n' Roll, R&B, Soul, Jazz, Gospel, Pop, Classical, World. I do a lot of my own stuff, which sounds a lot like the other stuff, but with my own feel." (Photo by Sören Hallberg)

Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really want to go for a whole day?

I would go to the Woodstock festival. Of course I wouldn't remember anything when I got back.  Ha, ha. What would really be a cool thing to do: Go back and see James Brown again in Saginaw, Michigan in1964. See that same show with the same audience. With all I've learned and heard and seen and played since I saw and heard it the first time. I didn't realize it at the time, but I was a lucky young man to be there. It was phenomenal in every sense of the word.

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