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Emma Donovan & The Putbacks


Hope Street Recordings

Released: 10th November 2014 | 10 track soul album

Acclaimed indigenous vocalist Emma Donovan and Melbourne rhythm combo The PutBacks come together to bring youDawn, an LP of hard hitting and heartfelt soul songs telling stories of grief, struggle and redemption.Dawnis a gritty, uniquely Australian record, simultaneously classic and contemporary. The songwriting is in turns optimistic, angry and melancholic, and on occasions bruisingly honest. The music is fluid, live and raw, recorded in one room on eight channels of analog tape and the electric connection between Emma and the band comes through in every beat.

Dawntakes some cues from the burgeoning soul revival, but it's a far looser interpretation than many releases in the style. This is no attempt at reviving a bygone era. There's no horn section. There's more rock in there. There's more country in there. There's more, in Emma's words, blackfella music in there. The songwriting is more akin to classic Aboriginal bands like Coloured Stone than it is to Sharon Jones. The sentiment is personal, for both Emma and the band, and forward looking, rather than revivalist. Shades of every soul record you ever liked sneak through: Al Green's Hi Records era? Check. Aretha's Classic Atlantic recordings? Check. Stacks of Stax? Check. It's all there, but all different. Dawn is it's own thing, indigenous Australian soul. From the ferocious opening salvo of Black Woman to the sweet and gentle comedown of Over Under Away, Dawn is above all a journey through Emma's life written in song.

Emma grew up singing church songs with her maternal grandparents on the North coast of New South Wales. Her first secular gigs were singing in The Donovans, a band comprised of her mother and five uncles. With her mother, Emma sang country for years, and in her youth was a fixture at the Tamworth Country Music Festival, but she always yearned for the bluesier tones of her Father's record collection, full of American artists like Laverne Baker and Etta James and Indigenous Australian artists like No Fixed Address and Archie Roach.

Years later, after touring and recording with many of the mainstays of Indigenous music and developing as a solo artist in her own right, Emma met members of The PutBacks, and finally she found a band with the gritty blues soaked tones she had been looking for. She also found, in PutBacks bassist Mick Meagher, a co-writer and collaborator on the the soul songs she had been waiting a lifetime to write and sing. The results are well worth the wait and hopefully, only mark the beginning of this oh-so-right collaboration.

"Emma’s voice is everything you’d want in a soul singer. She’s the real deal."
Frances Devin Rimer, Wax Poetics
"Emma has a powerhouse voice that reflects the depth of soul and spirit in her music. Her ability to connect listeners to whatever emotion she's delivering in the moment is pure and a true gift to see, hear and most of all, feel."
Natalie Pa'apa'a, Blue King Brown
"What a fantastic debut this is. The gritty and honest vocal from Emma Donovan, paired with the groove of Melbourne rhythm combo The PutBacks is really quite electric on this, very cinematic and super-hip track, sounding like it could have easily busted out of the defining moment of a soul cinema flick."
Phil Gates, Funkalicious
"While the infectious rhythm will instantly capture your attention, Donovan's raw, soulful vocals are equally as commanding of the listener's attention, as she conveys struggle and strength effortlessly."
Kitten Jam, Soul Bounce
"If the JB’s had their own monorail, the Putbacks have a steam train that runs right from Australia directly to every record player in the world"
DJ Prestige
"Diamond Cutter is fresh — it’s cheesy enough to make white people dance but it’s not cheesy at all… it’s got the same kinda swinging feel as Tighten Up or Razor Blade, but still grooves hard like a JB/Pee Wee Ellis 45. Party starter! CAUTION: May induce white man’s overbite!"
Rex, Northside Records