Wednesday 5 May 2021

'Crossover' by Emma Donovan & The Putbacks

Six years is an incredibly long time.  Particularly as a time frame between album releases but that's how long fans of Emma Donovan & The Putbacks had to wait for the collective's official follow-up to their Hopestreet Recordings debut, 'Dawn'.

Released in 2014, 'Dawn' paired the powerhouse vocal of Emma Donovan with the grimy funk of The Putbacks for an undeniable masterpiece of contemporary soul music.  While, both, Donovan and The Putbacks each boasted a wealth of experience with prior releases and live performances, etc, it was ultimately their musical union that went on to deliver their creative and most successful heights.

Their distinctive and unique interpretation of soul music masterfully fused elements of funk, rock, blues and gospel, best exemplified through the album's highlights like 'My Goodness', 'Daddy' and 'Over Under Away' - music that still stands tall amongst any contemporary soul release you could compare it against.

The Putbacks would go on to release their self-titled debut record in 2018 taking their sound to the next stage of its evolution.  At the time of the album's release, the band themselves described the music as "crunchy post-soul post-jazz mystery-cinema instrumentals".  Throw in a dose of "psychedelic funk" into the mix and it all results in a fairly apt description of their stunning effort.  Comprised of Tom Martin (guitar), Rory McDougall (drums), Mick Meagher (bass), Justin Marshall (percussion) and Simon Marvin (keyboards) - with the help of Miguel Atwood-Ferguson, Bilal and producer Paul Bender (Hiatus Kaiyote) - the band took great steps to reinvent the music listeners had become accustomed to associating with their name to significant success.

Although the time in between projects has been productive for each, the announcement of 'Crossover' was met with much excitement for patient fans hungry for the official successor to 'Dawn'.  

And it doesn't disappoint in the slightest - Emma Donovan sounds as authentic as she does on 'Dawn's highest moments: from the opening thumps of the album's title track, it all reconnects in exactly the way you'd hope it would - the quintessential 60's sounding soul number is a perfect opener; 'Mob March' serves as a timely response to moments of civil unrest, particularly in the US, from last year.  As detailed in the album's inlay card, 'Warrell Creek Song' is a poignant and personal contribution to 'Crossover' with its lyrics originally sung by Donovan's "great-great Granny Ballangarry".  It's very much the album closer, 'Pretty One', which is the show-stealer here though - patient in its pace and approach, beautifully presented and finished off with a choral backdrop at the song's conclusion.

Emma Donovan & The Putbacks.  Still one of the premier names in soul music today and if we have to wait another six years to receive a third album the quality of this record, then it'll be worth it.

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