When I put on Chickaboom! I had visions of a singer in a dive roadhouse somewhere on the road between Memphis and Nashville in the mid-60’s. I imagined someone who’s been doing session work in Memphis with the great Stax artists, then gets on the bus and does the same with all the great country artists on Music Row. When Tami hits the road on her own, she takes all she’s learned and mashes it all together. Gospel, country, blues, rockabilly and soul are all just colors in her palette. When Neilson sings, she stops all conversation. She commands attention and you’re only too happy to give it.
Tami grew up playing across Canada with her parents and siblings in the Neilson Family Band. She opened shows for Johnny Cash, Tanya Tucker and Kitty Wells. Then she married a Kiwi and moved to the other side of the world and started life as a solo artist.
The fun starts with, “Call Your Mama,” a blistering put-down to an ex. Tami asks, “why don’t you call your Mama, See if she wanna make up the spare room for you to stay.” That lacerating sarcasm cuts to the bone on “Ten Tonne Truck.” Tami sings, “Hey, Hey work a little harder… with work and prayer and a little bit of luck, you’ll make so much money you’ll need a ten tonne truck.” Yup, those are the kind of lies we tell ourselves about the “American Dream.”
While it’s fun hearing Tami’s humor, it’s just as fun to hear her pour her heart out in sincere appreciation. “Sister Mavis” is a loving tribute to Mavis Staples and the great gospel singers she worked with. “Hey, Bus Driver” is a riotous rockabilly rumble about the touring life. “Any Fool With a Heart” gives us a lush countrypolitan ballad that evokes Peggy Lee. “Queenie, Queenie,” on the other hand, is a stripped down a blues as you can imagine. With her big voice and some minimal percussion, Tami rocks the house.
So, for a good time, call Tami Neilson.