There’s an interesting backstory here: Tami Neilson found some success on the Canadian country scene in the Neilson Family band, prior to emigrating to (and finding stardom in) New Zealand. Dynamite is her fourth solo album, but the first to get a much-deserved proper push here.
Quite simply, this is killer stuff. Your jaw will drop at first listen to the voice belting it out on the opening cut “Walk (Back To Your Arms).” The obvious reference point for the vocal power is Adele, but Neilson’s chosen metier is roots music, not glossy MOR pop. Country, rockabilly, vintage rock’n’roll and soul strains coalesce seamlessly here. A full-speed, two-minute-long rockabilly romp, “Come Over” evokes Wanda Jackson, while the following cut, “Texas,” is a country ballad Patsy Cline would have loved to get her hands on. “Running To You” is a male/female duet that evokes Johnny and June, while “Cry Over You” is another ballad boosted by a male harmony vocal and countrypolitan production.
It’s refreshing that she and her producers refuse to nod even slightly in the direction of any music made after 1970, while the strength of Neilson’s songwriting keeps the album from being some kind of tribute to the Country Greats compilation. She enlists the cream of the (small but talented) New Zealand country crop to assist on Dynamite. The co-production work of Delaney Davidson and Ben Edwards is faultless, and Davidson adds resonant guitar and strong duet vocals on “Running To You.” Steel player Red McKelvie is a Kiwi music legend reportedly coaxed out of retirement to contribute here, while another fine singer, Ben Woolley, convincingly takes on duet duties on closing cut “Whiskey and Kisses.”
In a neat reversal of roles, the tale of a barroom pickup features Neilson explaining “I don’t want to be a missus, all I want is whiskey and kisses,” while it’s her conquest who wants something a little deeper. On the title track, Neilson declares she’s “the eye of the hurricane.” Forget the eye — there’s just Typhoon Tami here, and she’ll blow you away. (Outside)