Don't Be Afraid
New resident in New Zealand, Tami Neilson was born in Canada and grew up in her family's country group. Following the passing of her father Ron, she moved to New Zealand where she established herself as a major country performer while still writing songs with her brother Jay along with her Kiwi collaborator Delaney Davidson, who also is on guitar. Others in her group include guitarist Dave Khan, Ben Woolley on bass and Joe McCallum on drums.
She has been described as a bit of Patsy Cline with Wanda Jackson's sass with a dash of Sharon Jones. When I listen to the title track, the last song her father wrote I am reminded of some of Mavis Staples' recent recordings with the atmosphere of the baking, while "Holy Moses" has a bit more rock and roll flair. Listening to "Lonely," a duet with Marlon Williams, one certainly can hear similarities to Cline, a similarity also present on Davidson's original "So Far Away," where a crisp rocking tempo adds an additional edge. "If Love Was Enough," is another slow, lovely country waltz with austere backing.
"Bury My Body," the last song her father heard before he passed, is another performance evocative of Mavis Staples with its austere, mesmerizing backing complementing the fervent, almost shouted, vocal. It is followed by the rockabilly-latin frenzy of "Loco Mama." "Heavy Heart" with astute use of reverb and vibrato in the backing, is another marvelous country lament, followed by the more traditional country flavored, "Only Tears." The album closes with a moving song for her father, "The First Man," where she sings he was the first man who she ever loved and who held her in his hands.
Not being familiar with Tami Neilson before, I was impressed, to say the least, by this remarkable and moving recording that anyone interested in roots and real country music with some gospel-soul seasoning should look into.
A publicist provided my review copy. This review appeared in the January-February 2017 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 370). Here is a video for "Lonely."