Family ties run deep through Emma Donovan’s second album backed by The Putbacks. The Indigenous Australian songwriter—whose parents came from the Gumbaynggirr, Dhangatti, Naaguja, and Yamatji people—sings to her mother Agnes and grandmother Aileen, both departed but certainly not forgotten. Aileen enjoys an extended tribute in the form of “Pink Skirt” (a nod to her flamboyant fashion choices), while the opening title track salutes Agnes’ success as a matriarch. “I know you’re lookin’ back on me/I know you’re not far from me,” repeats Donovan with simmering passion. Set against The Putbacks’ organic fusion of funk, soul, and psych, Donovan shines on every song here, taking center stage after years of singing with Archie Roach, Black Arm Band, and others. Keyboardist/producer Simon Mavin brings a warm, vintage-style saturation to the record, letting the band sizzle while Donovan invests herself fully in her powerful lyrics. Besides immediate family members, she acknowledges her other personal heroes by including the Ruby Hunter composition “Yarian Mitji” and the Gumbaynggirr-language “Warrell Creek Song,” a traditional tune given a fresh arrangement. Donovan and The Putbacks quickly followed up this breakthrough with 2021’s Under the Streets, a dark and potent look at inequality and other urgent social issues.

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