MANY in the Australian music industry have said that Dan Sultan is a superstar in waiting, a versatile performer with a sexy stage presence and a powerful voice whose success thus far has been hindered only by a lack of marketing. All he needed, perhaps, was a leg up from a resourceful label after years of honing his craft independently.
This, then, the Melbourne singer’s third album in eight years and his first for Liberation, should be that transformative moment. Certainly in terms of production it’s a step up from 2009’s Get Out While You Can, which nevertheless earned him a couple of ARIAs and raised his profile here and overseas.
Blackbird is named after the studio in Nashville where it was recorded. It’s the working environment of American producer Jacquire King (Kings of Leon, Tom Waits) and he has done a fine job of presenting Sultan’s versatile voice in all of its guises. He takes the singer’s Stax-era soul croon on a pleasing outing for Ain’t
Thinking About You and It Belongs to Us, while his rock chops emerge on the opening Make Me Slip and High Street Riot. It’s the strikingly beautiful ballads Nobody
Knows and Gullible Few that highlight best Sultan’s emotional depth.
This is Sultan’s first album without collaborator Scott Wilson. Sultan wanted to move on and has done so with other writers and by penning five of the 13 tracks himself.
Blackbird plays to Sultan’s strengths as a performer and there is much to like in the oldschool styles he embraces, but one might have expected a few more risks in the writing.