Album Review: Dan Sultan - Blackbird

31 March 2014 | 10:52 am | Danielle O'Donohue

This is a big step forward for Dan Sultan.

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Dan Sultan has grown up. From a soulful but tentative singer-songwriter on Get Out While You Can, the Melbourne musician has matured into a genuine rock'n'roller, able to evoke shades of classic Australian rockers such as Cold Chisel, or turn things right down to drop a stunning ballad, Gullible Few.

In the four years since his last album, Sultan has surrounded himself with a brand new musical team and the rebirth is evident. This album took Sultan to Nashville to record with Jacquire King, whose musical expertise has clearly given Sultan the confidence to throw everything at this album.

Though Blackbird may have been recorded in Nashville with a famous American producer at the helm, this record is 100 per cent Australian. Like Paul Kelly and Tim Rogers before him, Sultan has always had a talent for writing about the Australian experience, giving his songs a real and lived-in sense of place. On songs such as Kimberley Calling and the gorgeous It Belongs To Us his Indigenous heritage is at the fore. The opening lines of It Belongs To Us, “Underneath my fingernails, these ancient trails can never be washed,” lead into the kind of timeless, easy rock song that should be the staple of Australian radio, if only.

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In fact, in another lifetime, any number of these songs would have suited commercial radio, the Hunters & Collectors-esque Can't Blame Me, with its horns and pounding drums, or the sexy roots rock of No More Explanations are just two examples. This is a big step forward for Dan Sultan.