Album: The Tao of Motor Oil

Artist: Jeff Finlin

Label: Bent Wheel Songs/BMI

Hometown: Fort Collins

Where to find it:

Why we like it: To call a musician a “poet” is not always a compliment. Poetry often dwells in the realm of pretension and pomp. Still, we expect our songwriters to be poets. But we also want them to speak to us with an ease that resonates as common, yet also with a clear profundity that says beautifully, perfectly what we wish we could.

Jeff Finlin does just that on The Tao of Motor Oil. His words may catch your heart off-guard, but know better: This songwriter is a poet in the guise of an everyman. His music may be the disguise: As on past efforts, Finlin travels the railways and highways of the American sound, drawing from country, blues, and rock ‘n roll—without following well-tread paths. His music is familiar but fresh and overflowing with soulful inspiration.

In the end, the poet prevails in the shadows. As the title signals, this is an album about movement: “Tao” loosely translates as “the way.” It seems Finlin sees the release from struggle as an open highway, a fascination he shares with one of his fans, Bruce Springsteen. But this is a freedom that no car, no highway will allow you to control, because that is not the way. “Take your hands off the wheel. Just let go,” Finlin sings.

None of this is heavy handed. Finlin’s characters are not always escaping unique, dramatic problems worthy of a feature film. There is nothing special about a broken heart, really. “You can sleep and I will drive / We’ll watch the skyline drift away / Thank God we made it out this time.”

What you will find on The Tao of Motor Oil is the complex beauty of lives we could encounter any day, filtered through the gaze of a day-to-day poet.

Bonus: Read J.R. Moehringer’s profile of Finlin from our July 2007 edition of the magazine.