Soulshowmike’s Album Picks reviews an Australian act coming to Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Soulshowmike’s Album Picks reviews an Australian act coming to Pittsburgh

I’ve been following and presenting music from Australian acts for the past 15 years or so. Fat Freddy’s Drop, Public Opinion Afro Orchestra, and, of course, Hiatus Kaiyote are always on the radar.

One Australian act, Emma Donovan and The Putbacks, will perform on Sat., March 25 at the Pittsburgh Playhouse. Having played a single here and there from the band's album Crossover on The Soul Show, it was time to give it an end-to-end review.

Emma Donovan, an Indigenous singer-songwriter with her renowned family band The Donovans, is an award-winning performer who has been applauded by publications like Wax Poetics and Rolling Stone magazine. I discovered her through her collaboration with Melbourne act The Putbacks. Their albums, Crossover from 2020 and Under These Streets from 2022, have received multiple awards from the Australian Independent Record Labels Association.

Crossover covers everything from rock-ish soul to soul-ish folk. Australia definitely puts its own spin on the genre, sometimes with edgy guitar and chanting backdrops. The tracks most familiar to an American ear would be the opening ballad and title track. “Don’t Give Up On Me” brings a spacy vibe reminiscent of Bilal’s collaborations with Adrian Younge, while “Hold On," another ballad, makes for one of the prettiest songs on the album.

“Mob March” brings an interplay of slide and lead guitar to a conscious theme, and the background singers/chanters deliver thickness behind Donovan's own powerful delivery. The song gets downright psychedelic by the end. “Yarian Mitji” and “Warrell Creek” are spoken in Indigenous tongue(s); the former has some serious Rod Argent keyboard vibe, for the old Brit rockers out there. The single “Pink Skirt” is perfect storytelling.

“Pretty One," the album’s folk/soul closer, is a perfect example of how to sequence album tracks, leaving the listener in the right end-state.

If for no other reason, music fans must hear Crossover to experience how America’s soul music backtracks through the diaspora.
Mike Canton is the longtime host and producer of The Soul Show, airing on local radio stations WZUM and WIUP. The program is currently syndicated in seven markets in the U.S. and Caribbean. Canton is also a Pittsburgh-area voice artist

Emma Donovan and The Putbacks. 7 p.m. Sat., March 25. Pittsburgh Playhouse. 350 Forbes Ave., Downtown. $35-73.

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