Photo Gallery: Emma Donovan & the Putbacks, Troy Music Hall, 03/24/2023

Sure, R&B (rhythm and blues) was born here in America, but it has influenced and been imported into many other countries and cultures. Australia has not been an exception. Emma Donovan and the Putbacks wowed a small but appreciative audience at Troy Music Hall on their first US Tour.

Emma is of Aboriginal descent and comes from a musical family; her parents are from Western Australia and New South Wales. She was born in suburban Sydney. She has been making music with the Putbacks since 2013.

Photo by Rudy Lu

Donovan certainly has a soulful voice that speaks to all cultures. The music reflects gospel and country western influences of her youth as well but is distinctly their own. Her songs address family life, women’s struggles, and the civil rights struggles of the aboriginal peoples. The opener, “Dawn,” clearly showed the influence of the sophisticated R&B of the 70s and 80s. “Yarian” and “Warrell Creek “ were sung in native aboriginal tongues. “Black Woman” was an anthemic and powerful protest.

The Putbacks are a polished band of professionals consisting of keyboards, bass, guitar, percussion, and drums.  In many ways, they reminded me of the late Sharon Jones’s backup band, the Dap Kings. They were excellent accompanists, never flashy, never in the way of the groove or the message. Opportunities for solos were taken; they were brief and to the point, always advancing the music and the message.

Photo by Rudy Lu

Emma Donovan and the Putbacks were the first aboriginal band that I’ve seen or heard of in quite some time; an aboriginal rock band Yothu Yindi played at the Union College Memorial Chapel back in 1992. Quite a different sound and concept, indie rock with a smattering of outback culture, dress, and dance. What other musical treasures are we missing from the land down under? With the gradual lifting of COVID restrictions, hopefully, we will hear more.


  • Dawn 
  • My Goodness
  • Take Tim
  • Yarian
  • Leftovers
  • Pink Skirt
  • Warrell Creek
  • Nothing I Can Do
  • Hard Times
  • Black Woman
  • Don’t Give Up
  • Pretty One
  • Out the Door
  • Over Under Away
  • Promised Land

Photo Gallery by Rudy Lu

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