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Tami Neilson - Don't Be Afraid

  by Malcolm Carter

published: 22 / 12 / 2016



Tami Neilson - Don't Be Afraid
Label: Neilson Records
Format: CD

intro

Fifth album from New Zealand’s Tami Neilson, which, informed by the loss of her father Ron Neilson, the leader of Canada’s Neilson Family Band, is a glorious mix of country, soul and gospel that will touch many


Now calling New Zealand home, Canadian born Tami Neilson recently released her fifth album ‘Don’t Be Afraid’ in the UK; it’s already been available in her new homeland for about twelve months. It was with her last album the appropriately titled ‘Dynamite’ that Tami really attracted attention outside of New Zealand although she had been singing and touring with her family for years; the sad passing of her father and musical mentor Ron Neilson informs the bulk of the material on ‘Don’t Be Afraid’. That Tami is a powerhouse of a singer was left in no doubt by those who heard ‘Dynamite’. While firmly planted in that country soil, her vocals, which have been compared to Patsy Cline, Peggy Lee and Wanda Jackson, also combined the soul of Amy Winehouse and more than a shade of the blues. Tami could go from weepy country ballad to honky-tonk stormers taking in a little soul and gospel on the journey with ease. Given the circumstances surrounding ‘Don’t Be Afraid’ you’d be forgiven for thinking that this time Tami and her boys have abandoned the rocking side of her repertoire and concentrated more on the country soul element in her music. But it’s not that way, as there are songs on ‘Don’t Be Afraid’ that almost out-rock some of the performances on ‘Dynamite’. The album starts and ends with the title track. The closing minute of the album is given over to Ron Neilson’s ‘demo’ of the song which was the last one Ron wrote. Tami recorded Ron’s sketch on her phone while he was in bed on an oxygen machine and later finished the song with the help of brother Jay. Closing the album with Ron’s original vision brings the album full circle and will move the hardest of hearts. Tami’s opening version of the full song is quite simply breathtaking. Her powerful vocals really do lift you off your seat. The atmospheric blues guitar licks highlight the emotional pull of the lyrics (“Don’t be afraid for I am with you/I’m gonna see you, see you through another day”). Music like this doesn’t really belong to any given genre. It just exists. It’s honest, real and even knowing the background to the song it still gives hope. Minutes after the song has finished you’re still left marvelling at Tami’s vocal prowess. It almost leaves the listener breathless. But Tami quickly dispels any thoughts that the album is going to be all downbeat and emotional. The second cut is ‘Holy Moses’. A belter of a song with a pronounced gospel influence, this song leaves you breathless for a completely different reason. Those who insist that Tami is a country artist should take a listen to this song; it’s far from most people’s definition of country. Of course there’s little doubt that Tami’s heart lies in country music but the way she presents her vision and the results reveal that here is an artist who can inject her work with elements of many different genres and create a sound that is always exciting and fresh, be it a country ballad or a full-on gospel blues. ‘Lonely’ is a song which Ron started to write when he was twenty and another which Tami and Jay finished together. It’s a beautiful country ballad, timeless and twangy and shows why those Patsy Cline comparisons are not so far off the mark. With a few vocal interjections from a returning Marlon Williams it’s a pure country tearjerker. ‘Bury My Body’ finds Tami returning to the gospel sound she explored on ‘Holy Moses’. This song was the last song Ron ever heard and was his favourite of the songs listed for this album. Again Tami’s vocal performance is exceptional, the spooky atmosphere created by the band adding to the menace in her voice. This is one of the songs solely written by the singer confirming once again that, brilliant as her co-writes are, Tami really is a songwriter of no little talent. ‘The First Man’ is a poignant tribute to her father. The lines of “the first man that I ever loved was the first man to ever hold me in his arms” opens this heartbreaking ballad, tracing their life together and coming to the realisation that no one will ever be able to fill his shoes. The stark musical backing highlights the emotion in Tami’s vocals and there’s many a tear that will fall while listening to this song. It is another remarkable performance. There was a little doubt that Tami, even with her considerable talent, would struggle to match what was an exceptional album in ‘Dynamite’ and one can only try to imagine the pain she suffered on the passing of her father, but she can be assured that her loss has helped create what surely will become a career high; this album will reach out and touch people on so many levels. Tami should be proud of what she has achieved here. One feels that her father would be.



Track Listing:-
1 Don't Be Afraid
2 Holy Moses
3 Lonely
4 So Far Away
5 If Love Were Enough
6 Bury My Body
7 Loco Mama
8 Heavy Heart
9 Only Tears
10 Laugh Laugh Laugh
11 The First Man


Band Links:-
https://www.facebook.com/tamineilsonmusic
http://www.tamineilson.com/
https://twitter.com/tamineilson
https://www.youtube.com/user/tamineilsondotcom



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