German sociologist Max Weber had a few things to say about charisma. Weber defined charisma in the context of exceptional powers and qualities, which were not available to ordinary men and women. On the basis of such attributes – which suggested divine origin – Weber noted charismatic individuals tended to positions of authority and leadership. Had Weber the opportunity to apply his theories of charisma to soul music, he’d have found plenty of examples to mull over.
Emma Donovan is oozing with the charisma and passion of the great soul singers of yore. On Black Woman, Donovan is in ‘70s social justice mode, giving powerful voice to the perils and pitfalls faced – and resilience shown – by black women both in Australia’s marginalised indigenous communities and throughout the world. My Goodness is as slick and stylish as a late night cocktail in a smoky bar; Dawn is dripping with Motown elegance. There’s a haunting beauty about Mother – is it deeply personal, ethnographic or metaphorical? Its parental companion piece, Daddy, evokes memories of The Temptations in psychedelic mode, offering a colourful glimpse into a world where everything is neither as it seems, nor as it should be.
Keep Me In Your Reach is lovin’ soul track like few others; Donovan channels Dusty Springfield and takes you to a higher emotional place. Come Back To Me is laden with psychological pain; you can feel the yolk of regret, and the only thing that makes it better is the beauty of the song. Voodoo is packed full of self-belief; for everything bad that’s gone down, and Donovan is bouncing back, and nothin’s gonna get her down. On Over Under Away, Donovan is reflective, contemplating the good, bad and indifferent of the world around her; in Donovan’s voice, it’s all worth listening to. Great soul singers are born, not made, and Emma Donovan is a charismatic soul singer for the ages.
BY PATRICK EMERY
Best Track: Black Woman
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In A Word:Soul