If the mid/late-90's invasion of old-souled female rockers, like Sheryl Crow and Joan Osborne, wasn't enough, Amy Winehouse, K.T. Tunstall and a new legion of soul queens have rendered the genre of throwback female soul-rock a tired idiom, mostly because it is a style that is as easy to approach as it is to botch. There are, after all, a hundred Shanon Kurfman's for every Sharon Jones...even if casual fans sometimes can't tell the difference. That's why it's hard to get too excited over any act that uses adjectives like "old school," "soulful" and "early-70's" while describing their sound; an assessment that would be true of the Possessions, another female-fronted, Brooklyn-based "soul/rock outfit", if they weren't one of the few that actually followed through on their billing - which they do emphatically on Carousel, their debut album. In essence, the Possessions is vocalist Tracy Eisenberg and guitarist/songwriter Frank Schiazza, who work together like many of the male/female front duos of years gone by: Delaney & Bonnie, Lindsay and Stevie, Marvin and Tammy, etc. Unlike their freewheeling predecessors, however, who made entire careers out of being restless and impulsive, Eisenberg and Schiazza are polished and grounded; their songs as reflective as they are raucous. In the literal sense, Carousel is a concept-album: a 12-song set of songs that - with the exception of the thinly-veiled sexual plea of "Wanting (What I Ain't Got), and "Sweet Marvin," an abstract song about a dead lover, set to a hard-funk beat, reminiscent of Tower of Power at their gritty best - deal with the cyclical nature of love and loss. The band doesn't play up the concept album angle too strongly, however, and instead works to make each song stand on it's own; a wise move, since the real allure of the album is the relentless barrage of knockout-song after knockout-song. On the opening cut, "I'll Be Gone," the band fuses the vocal approach of Delaney & Bonnie with Steve Windwood keyboards and a burst of Van Morrison horns, to create a sound that harks back to a time when soul-rock horns were hip, and loveless bravado was all the rage. "Once that part of me dies/I'll say 'well, it's been nice'/wipe one last tear from your eye/and then I'll be gone" Eisenberg sings, toeing the line between detachment and desire. "Carry Me Through," finds the band locked into a reggae groove that builds to a mammoth, sign-along coda, not too unlike those made famous by late-90's, pre Harijuku No Doubt. "Carousel," the title track, updates the crunch of mid-90's rock with a rollicking chorus, and some soulful lead breaks by Schiazza and guest keyboardist Ben Laufer. "Always the Same," a brilliant Schiazza/Eisenberg compilation, sounds like a long-lost Goffin/King gem - a song of love and helplessness, set to a minor-key backing that is as gorgeous as it is brooding. Eisenberg sings from a place deeper than her soul as she nails the crescendo ("Talking all that same old trash again/the same kind of trash I really love hearing/yeah, it's the same thing"), then bellows the chorus on repeat as the song fades out amid a sea of brass and cellos. The band takes some stylistic chances in the middle of the album, trying their hands at funky dance pop ("Wanting"), straight blues ("Any Way I Can") and even 80's synth-pop, with the static, grandiose "Let it be Tonight." With each, the band succeeds, impressively claiming each stylistic departure as it's own - meaning they are not departures at all, but rather a band that can float seamlessly between genres. Even on "Fallin' Down is Easy," the only true "simple pop" song on the record, the Possessions hit the mark, establishing a groove that's light and playful, while Eisenberg sings like a grown-woman, thrust back into the helplessness of adolescent heartbreak. "One little puff and I'll fall," she sings, before turning to the only person she has left for support: "mama." The album's best track, however, is "All Alone in Your Arms," a slow, burning soul ballad that could easily have been recorded by Aretha Franklin at Muscle Shoals Studio with Jerry Wexler at the helm. Schiazza, finally given a chance to stretch out his fingers, turns in a mammoth lead break - one of the highlights of the album, and glaring evidence that he is among the most skilled and tuneful guitarists in the business. The closing track, "(You're Gonna Be) Mine, Someday" is another Brill Building work-out, with production that is gloriously Spectorian, and an Eisenberg vocal performance that is gloriously melancholy. As the song fades, Eisenberg can be heard crying "you're gonna be mine someday/no matter what you do or what you say," and, with a soaring string melody and crashing cymbals as her backdrop, you wonder if she's screaming at a distant lover, or legions of unconverted fans that have yet to hear this band. With a debut as strong as this, there's no doubt that, to whomever Eisenberg was calling, they will answer.