EMMA DONOVAN & THE PUTBACKS: DAWN
LABEL : Hope Street Recordings
FOR FANS OF: Sly Stone, Jill Scott, Jimi Hendrix, and Santana
Emma Donovan might be one of the most soulful singers to ever come out of Australia. Born into a musical family, Emma started out singing as a child and quickly began performing live with her Uncle’s band The Donovans. As she gained more experience she began forming her own groups and releasing her own recordings. Then 2007 she was invited to become a member of The Black Arm Band, a group made up of Indigenous musicians from Australia. While all of these projects give Emma a very impressive musical resume her most recent musical project might be her finest moment. Her new album, entitled DAWN, is the result of a newly formed partnership with the Melbourne funk/soul group The PutBacks. Full of funky rhythms, psychedelic guitar, and soulful vocal melodies, DAWN is easily one of 2014’s best releases.
Within a few minutes of putting the needle to the vinyl you can tell that there’s something special about this group of musicians. The record opens with the soulful funk tune “Black Woman”. What makes this song (as well as the entire album) special is the interplay between Emma and the band. The musicians are free to play but know when to lay back and let the vocals lead shine through. Another stand out track on the album is the percussion-driven tune “Daddy”. If you ever wondered what the original Santana band would’ve sounded like if Mahalia Jackson was their lead singer here’s your answer. Dynamics are key here. The song doesn’t change much but the band keeps the music from going stale by dropping in screaming guitar and pounding organ over world-beat grooves.
Vocally speaking, the album’s finest moment is the Jazzy balled “Mother”. While many vocalists tend to “over-sing” and show off their range on ballads, that is not the case here. Emma shows us that in many cases, “less” actually is “more” as she floats her voice perfectly between the song’s bluesy guitar lines. Hopefully this song will find it’s way to the mainstream music listener in the new year and DAWN will be echoing out of speakers worldwide in 2015.