No one forgets the first time they saw Tami Neilson. She can hush a room with an original song that channels the hurting spirit of Patsy Cline or the sensuality of Peggy Lee, or bring the audience to its feet on a rockabilly raver.
She’s an artist with real range, whose powerful voice can take on big ballads, golden-age country, heartfelt Gospel, soul-infused R&B, Western swing, even old-style rock ‘n’ roll. Tami encompasses them all and is a personality-powered cyclonic force of nature in stylishly retro attire, long lashes and a stacked-high beehive.
Previous media accolades come from both sides of the Atlantic, including Rolling Stone, which called her “a fire-breathing belter on her own terms” and the Guardian, which asserted that “her powerhouse voice recalls 1950s stars such as Wanda Jackson and Patsy Cline.”
Of her new album’s title, CHICKABOOM!, Tami explains, “I wanted to write an album of punchy little songs, popping firecrackers that, when stripped back to nothing but a guitar, percussion and two voices, would still go boom!” The new collection brings much personal and family history to the table.
Tami grew up performing across North America with the Neilson Family Band, working alongside greats such as Johnny Cash, Tanya Tucker, and Kitty Wells. With her parents Betty and Ron (her late father a songwriter of considerable accomplishment) and two brothers Todd (drums) and Jay (bass), she spent years on the road learning her craft. This enabled Tami to explore her increasing vocal and emotional range and build a deep well of musical influences to draw upon when she started to write her own material.
Subsequently, Tami fell in love with a New Zealander, moved to the bottom of the world and began her solo career. Though she left the comforts of her loving family and musical community in Canada, over many years she built a platform for herself through open-mic nights, playing soulless casinos and the dead-air time-slots at festivals, finding a small group of fellow travellers and supportive players, and then a series of increasingly impressive albums followed.
The early records saw her in a self-created territory between mainstream country and alternative country, a couple recorded around the kitchen table back home in Canada with brother Jay, who is now an acclaimed producer and songwriter. Then awards started coming in New Zealand for albums that added breadth to her “country singer” label: Best Female Artist, Best Country Album, Best Country Song, an APRA Silver Scroll (songwriting) award and Album of the Year nominations. Her Dynamite! album of 2014 received rave reviews in MOJO and the Guardian named it a Top 10 Best Country Music Album. Tami’s songs appeared on the Netflix series Wanted and the terrestrial TV series Nashville.
And if you’ve missed Tami before — on record or in concert — then you are in for a treat … and you might not quite understand what you’ve gotten yourself into either.