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Emma Donovan & The Putbacks

Iconic Indigenous Australian soul singer Emma Donovan and powerhouse rhythm combo The Putbacks present their much-anticipated sophomore album Crossover. Personal, powerful lyrics and masterful musicianship combine to deliver a uniquely soulful LP, reflective of Emma’s unique experience and the deep, dark, sophisticated funk that only The Putbacks can provide


Acclaimed Gumbaynggirr, Dunghutti and Yamatji soul queen Emma Donovan returns after a six-year absence with Crossover, another cracking album made with her long-time collaborators the Putbacks.

A born musician, Donovan grew up singing gospel songs with her grandparents on the north coast of New South Wales, and, at the age of seven, joined her mother and five uncles in the family band the Donovans. She was also a founding member of the award-winning, all-Aboriginal female folk outfit the Stiff Gins, as well as the now legendary Black Arm Band. During this period, she met the musicians who would go on to become her band the Putbacks. Taking their cues from some of the great soul house bands of the 1960s and 1970s, the Putbacks are a rhythm section in the mould of the MGs or the Meters, and despite the lack of horns, they’re damn funky. Together, Donovan and the band burst onto the scene in 2014 with their album Dawn, announcing themselves as a new and undeniable voice in Australian soul music.

Now, six years later, they’re back with Crossover, a fantastic follow-up destined to be a new Australian classic. Most of the songs on the album are originals apart from the Ruby Hunter song ‘Yarian Mitji’, which is sung in the South Australian language of Ngarrindjeri, and ‘Warrell Creek Song’, a traditional Gumbaynggirr song about the sighting of a strange vessel off the New South Wales coast, which Donovan sings in her grandmother’s mother tongue. Crossover is a soul album reminiscent of the Stax or Atlantic record labels, but equally a protest album in the tradition of pioneering First Nations artists such as Coloured Stone, Archie Roach and Ruby Hunter. One of the standouts in this vein is ‘Mob March’, a stirring anthem that also speaks to the Black Lives Matter movement in Australia. As Donovan says: ‘Get on ya feet, we’re takin it to the streets.’

Dave Clarke is the music division manager for Readings.

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