Album Reviews

Tami Neilson

Don't Be Afraid

Artist:     Tami Neilson

Album:     Don’t Be Afraid

Label:     Neilson Records

Release Date:     10/07/2016


Trading breezy locks for a mile-high beehive and flowery frocks for skin-tight sexy, Tami Neilson made herself over big-time. But the transfixing music on Don’t Be Afraid is what really reveals the huge breadth of the transformation this Canadian country singer underwent. The sweetheart of the Neilson Family band slowly but surely amplified some dangerous curves as a solo artist relocated to New Zealand, and they’re on display here in the ultimate light yet on her fifth solo release.

The country of Patsy Cline, rockabilly from Wanda Jackson, but also highly personal chic and liberty all wash through this lady’s voice on this extraordinary album. All the great facets of what’s arguably real country music shines on it. The full effect comes through most clearly in “Heavy Heart,” a sumptuous and profound Southwestern tale worthy of Linda Ronstadt. Absolutely gorgeous. “Loco Mama,” just prior to that, shakes and smokes, the Mexicali spice in both the music, and Neilson’s voice, the polar opposite of what’s to come. With Neilson’s kind of a voice, a great band is paramount, and she’s got one hell of a group on hand backing her. Guitarist Delaney Davidson, bassist Ben Woolley, drummer Joe McCallum, and guitarist and strings player Dave Khan begin by creeping spookily on the unlikely album-opener, “Don’t Be Afraid,” which is the last song Neilson’s father, Ron Neilson, wrote before he passed recently. The gravity of his death propelled his baby here, and the somberness expressed in that song sets up quite a cycle. “Holy Moses,” next, is torn-up bellowing of loss in the guise of rockabilly with a rocket under its ass. Man, the band kicks it up. But they all settle right down, and with a guest pedal steel player, for the lushness of “Lonely,” as Neilson pours herself into the simple idea of missing her man. Scraped and echoed guitar punctuates the jittery “So Far Away,” about someone too often away from home, and incredible visions of graveyard gospel appear for “Bury My Body.”

Not only does Tami Neilson present a powerful image, and an amazing voice, but she can surely write convincingly. Welcome to America, Tami. I believe you’ll be around for a while.

—Tom Clarke


Watch Neilson’s video for “Holy Moses” HERE.

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