Tami Neilson announces two summer festivals: Black Deer Festival and Sjock23-02-2023
From being cradled as a baby in the arms of Roy Orbison, to performing a duet with Willie Nelson, you would think that Tami Neilson lived a country music fantasy life.
However, in between these monumental occurrences, The Neilson Family Band, with Tami’s parents, and two brothers, were having to busk in the streets of small-town Ontario in order to put food on the table, performing gospel concerts to prisoners, and roaring down the Trans-Canada Highway in an exploding RV on her way to open for Johnny Cash, which she managed to do, at 18 years old, in her pajamas.
And then Tami left to start her own family on the other side of the world in New Zealand, where she now resides. Her busking chops served her well, as she took to the streets of Auckland looking for her big break. From open mic nights to clubs, to then headlining theatres and major festivals across New Zealand, Tami has now won almost every music award possible.
The award-winning singer’s effortless fifth album Kingmaker is recorded at Neil Finn’s Roundhead Studios, Kingmaker was born of the pandemic. A moment when women were struggling. Frontline workers fighting for human lives. Essential services providers. Disproportionately affected by furlough: a “she-cession,” analysts termed it. Women put their dreams and careers on hold to care for their families and homeschool children. They mobilized online to bring awareness to domestic abuse and systemic inequalities. They marched in the streets for the lives of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor, and the remains of more than 1,700 indigenous children found in mass graves of former residential schools in Canada.
She’s laden with every music award her adopted homeland New Zealand can muster, but the queen of Kiwi country deserves a wider audience. This fifth album may help locate it, boasting a duet with Willie Nelson on "Beyond the Stars", a waltz full of tumbling guitars and sweeping strings with Neilson soaring effortlessly above. Strong-voiced 50s divas such as Patsy Cline – of whom Willie is reminded – remain a central strand of Neilson’s work and she handles a potentially saccharine number with brio, its accompanying video exhibiting Neilson’s impressive way with gothic frockery.
Kingmaker is an album about how injustices and abuses function within systems to inflict individual pain that then informs each individual’s experiences and relationships. Is it any wonder, then, that Neilson shouts and wails and belts her way through these dense — and, it must be said, catchy as all hell — songs? Kingmaker finds the most gifted singer in modern popular music using her extraordinary voice to elevate and inspire those who are too often voiceless.