Music legend has it that when the drummer of Dexy’s Midnight Runners turned up to the group’s first ever rehearsal with a pile of Stax records, he claimed he didn’t want to begin their musical venture unless they were as good as the artists he’d laid out on the table before them.

It’s highly conceivable that any one of the nine-strong cast of Melbourne’s Saskwatch arrived to their first roundtable with an iPod shuffle filled with Motown, Amy Winehouse and Blaxploitation soundtracks and made the same claim. Such is the strength of their debut.

A band so good that it forced the hand of famed RRR presenter and Northside Records owner, Chris Gill, to extend his independent record shop into a label imprint to release Leave It All Behind.

Charging out of the gate with the tight curves of cinematic instrumental, ‘The Delinquetnt’; the introduction of vocalist Nkechi Anele on ‘Don’t Wanna Try’ quickly cements the group’s individual skill, as well as their combined synergy as a unit.

Her boisterous flair may lack dynamic flexibility, but more than makes up for it in genuine affectation. That special somethin’ called soul; an increasingly elusive quality that so many modern singers lack in the advent of manufactured talent.

It certainly helps that Saskwatch’s retro-engineered sound fits like a snappy dinner suit. If authenticity is the barometer by which you can judge an album, then Leave It All Behind is a stone cold classic.

Lead single ‘Your Love’ sounds like the Dian Ross standard that never materialised, ‘Second Best’ delivers blues sass – ‘I Could Be Wrong’ a shuffling strut, and there’s still room for the creamiest of smooth soul in album closer ‘Smooth Sailing’.

There’s modern tips of the hat too in two cover versions, a winning interpretation of the recently defunct Little Red’s ‘Coca Cola’ and an instrumental rip through the Robbie Williams/Kylie Minogue duet, ‘Kids’.

The result is a release that is unlikely to be unseated as the best of its genre in 2012 – and in a year that’s seen quality releases from Australia’s finest funk/soul ambassadors like The Bamboos and The Cactus Channel – that’s quite the recommendation.

– Al Newstead

Be sure to read our interview with Saskwatch’s Liam McGorry at Northside Records and check out the huge list of dates for the band’s forthcoming national tour.

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