Tami Neilson – Don’t Be Afraid
Self-Produced, Licensed by Outside Music
CD: 11 Songs, 35:18 Minutes
Styles: Soul, Soul-Influenced Blues, Mellow Ballads
The perky Bandcamp profile of Canada’s Tami Neilson describes her as “a red-hot honky-tonker, somewhere between Patsy Cline and Wanda Jackson with perhaps just a little bit of Peggy Lee sophistication.” This quote, from Nick Bollinger of New Zealand National Radio, is spot-on. What’s missing? Any mention of our favorite “B” word at this magazine. Not to worry, though: we profile soul and soul-influenced blues albums all the time. Don’t Be Afraid, Tami’s 2016 release, is a riveting and heartfelt follow-up to her 2014 debut Dynamite! It’s full of ballads, such as “Only Tears” and “Heavy Heart,” that would remind one of Linda Ronstadt as well as the dynamos mentioned earlier. All eleven selections on this CD are originals, plus a ghost-track demo version of the title song. They may not be pure blues, but they are bodacious!
The atmosphere of this album is one of nostalgia, yearning for a past and people now long gone. Tami lovingly dedicates Don’t Be Afraid to her father, who co-wrote two of its songs, saying on the back cover, “Dad, this is for you.” By far, the sweetest slow number is the last one, entitled “The First Man.” Got that? Good. With pizzazz and poignancy alternating in rounds, Neilson takes listeners inside her life to meet the people she loves, and share in her fun and frustration. Her vocals could use a bit more power on some songs, but on “Loco Mama,” they pack a wallop. Tami’s music is the kind one might hear at a Western-themed bar, whether in a film or real life.
Performing along with Neilson are Dave Khan on guitars and strings, Ben Woolley on bass guitars, Joe McCallum on drums, and Delaney Davidson on guitars. Collectively, these four and Will Wood are known as the “Prodigal Sons Choir”, as stated on the inside cover of the CD. Special guests include Marlon Williams and pedal-steel guitar player Red McKelvie.
The following three songs are guaranteed to get crowds laughing and dancing all at once:
Track 06: “Bury My Body” – Okay, this is more of an eerie stomp instead of a dance number, and one’s laughter comes at one particular lyrical point in the song, but it fits my criteria just the same. “The devil done missed his chance to steal my soul. He crooked his crooked finger, and I said, ‘Hell, no!’” Would that all of us would be so daring in the face of death. No tombstone can hold the faithful, as Tami reassures us: “The dust and the bone won’t make a sound.”
Track 07: “Loco Mama” – Any parent can relate to these hilarious sentiments: “When the Mama go loco, you better get out, better go go, tick-tick-tick-tick-tick, POW!” Kids may be bundles of joy, but they can turn mamas and papas into bundles of nerves in no time flat. This Latin-inspired salsa-fest will be the number-one repeated song on householders’ playlists. Check out that fiery guitar.
Track 10: “Laugh Laugh Laugh” – Full disclosure: The title of track ten made me do just that. However, its subject is no laughing matter. “I’m teasing up my hair and painting my lips Ruby Woo. Spraying on my AquaNet and the last of that perfume you gave me so long ago. But if I’m blue, you’ll never know.” Sometimes merriment is a mask we wear until we melt. Dig that 1920’s vibe and do the Charleston to your heart’s content, dancing dudes and dudettes!
Lovers of soul, Don’t Be Afraid to give Tami Neilson’s latest offering a spin!