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Testify! (Universal)

Ok, let’s get it out of the way quickly so the kids can go to bed: this Soul Movers album is old music. Like, totally old.

It’s a style from the 1960s as revived in the later ‘70s in corners of inner Sydney: earthy southern soul mixed with the dance-focused northern fare, with beefed up country (get some piano in there if you can), and a kind of assertive pop (soul roots with something of a Bacharach ear).

If you’re wondering what that is think something like Spencer Davis Group, The Passengers and The Band in expanded mode during The Last Waltz, with a few members of some Detroit rock band giving it some restrained welly.

It’s written, played and produced by people who neither sound nor look like they use Snapchat (but probably give good Insta and are totally across Facebook) and who probably still own original vinyl alongside the hip reissues.

It sounds like some of those old records too: an aversion to excessive treble or sharpness that defines the ear-bud generation; the voice up front and full bodied while the instruments work as accompaniment not a rival; the keyboard mining both church and bar; the guitar clean and direct, whether in rhythm or lead mode; bass and drums doing the simple things well and not looking to star.

Got it? Good.

So, now that anyone hung up on being terribly of-the-moment has long gone, the question the rest of us have is, old or new, can Soul Movers do this well?

Yes, yes, they can, “they” being Darren Ryan on drums, Andy Newman on bass, Pip Hoyle on keys, Murray Cook on guitar and Lizzie Mack on vocals.

I’m not a huge fan of the light-on first single, Fool I Am, but the songs are good (not genius, but never less than pleasing and that’s rare enough that you’ll forgive the generic lyrics), the playing is good (not virtuoso, but grandstanding would be out of place) and the energy is good (you feel the heat, not the fire).

Better still, the stylistic moves are appropriate rather than slavish so that while you know where it’s going you get that that’s because the path is the right one in each song, rather than because someone chose the end and then retro-fitted the bits.

And most importantly - because at its best this style while gender-fluid, demands a certain type of female voice for true satisfaction – Mack has that gutsy, knowing, unbowed but also cynicism-free instrument.

She can rip over wah-wah guitar in the proto-funk Rise Up, and bump out in Shoulda Said No, bare a little tenderness in the ballads Hiding Low and Show Me. and deepen the feeling in the Carole King-ish No Friend, or curl around a smokey Satin Dress.

Old? Sure. Tired? Not even close yet.

If you’re in Sydney on Saturday, the 23rd, The Soul Movers will launch this album at Leadbelly in Newtown.

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