While the overall showcase of award-winning Canadian-born Tami Neilson is not original many of her songs & performances on this collection have a radiance. However, she’ll remind a sharp-eared listener of other artists who mined this type of vocalizing. But that’s not to undermine Ms. Neilson – she’s a credible singer with wonderful pipes & does have an exciting presence. Tami has grit, good phrasing & plenty of vitality.
There are 10 tracks on her 7th LP Chickaboom! (Neilson Records – drops Feb. 14). Produced by Tami with Delaney Davidson (Lead Guitar) – it was recorded in Auckland, New Zealand.
Ok — proprieties over let’s dissect — I concede Ms. Neilson (vocals, rhythm guitar), has a wonderful sense of sassy humor with good range & power generously injected into her repertoire. She does possess diversity & it makes the listen a pleasure. However, you’d have to like retro 50’s early 60s type music to fully dive in without catching a chill. But remember, Tami does it well, & that makes it worth an effort.
Track 1 is the opening pop-rocker “Call Your Mama,” – mindful vocally of another retro-attired, beehive haired singer who’s been around the barn more than once – Christine Ohlman (“The Deep End”). Imitation? Nah. They just work on the same side of the street as Wanda Jackson. I’d rather bless them for keeping a nearly forgotten genre from dying altogether.
“Hey, Bus Driver,” is a typical retro pop-country novelty (not campy) — it’s well-written highly polished & performed ear-candy. Tami hits her notes strong & again on “Sister Mavis,” in a Karen Lawrence (1994, Blue By Nature) aggressive style. Karen, known for her astonishing blues vocals as heard on 1994’s “Bring It Home,” & “Once Again.” Tami’s in that arena.
“Ten Tonne Truck,” is another oldie blast with sassy vocals & Alejandro Escovedo-type vocal rip (“Gravity/Falling Down Again”). Tami’s emotional range is invested as she dips into classic styles. It’s to be admired, not ridiculed. The contagious percussion (drums Joe McCullum) on “Queenie, Queenie” is a leaf from the tree of the 1960s classic “Iko-Iko” (The Dixie Cups) for sure.
But from that to Etta James-Eartha Kitt vocalizing shade of “You Were Mine,” – that’s commendable. Well-arranged blues & projected with authority. Brett Adams guests on lead guitar. With expertise, “16 Miles of Chain,” hops along through Tennessee Ernie Ford (“16 Tons”) & Jimmy Dean (“Big Bad John) territory. All performed naturalistically & with a hat-tip to the past.
“Tell Me That You Love Me,” is full-throttle Hee-Haw country music with a touch of Reba McIntyre energy. Delaney joins on vocal. “Sleep,” is a lullaby closer & downshifts Tami to a wonderfully sweet, calming, almost 1950s island type of melodic serenity. Smart & wise – shows mannered creativity & it’s delightful. It should’ve faded though & not end abruptly.
Jay Neilson (bass guitar) also plays rhythm guitar & adds vocals. The CD is available at AppleMusic.