Tami Neilson Takes Her Next Step on ‘CHICKABOOM!’

Tami Neilson | CHICKABOOM! | (Outside Music)

Videos by American Songwriter

4 out of 5 stars

She calls herself “the hot rockin’ lady of country, rockabilly and soul” and that’s no empty exaggeration. One look at Tami Neilson’s serious foot-high beehive hairdo piled tall on the front cover of her fifth solo outing and you know she means business. From her eye-catching bouffant to her powerfully husky voice and no-nonsense songs, Neilson’s entire persona screams big and sassy.

These eleven tracks are done and dusted in just under a half hour (only one breaks three minutes), but Neilson stakes her claim as the toughest, rockingest and fiercest country, rockabilly singer on the scene. She makes such icons of the genre like Wanda Jackson and k.d. lang seem pale in comparison, especially when laying into barn stompers like “Hey Bus Driver” and “Tell Me That You Love Me” that hurtle along like runaway mystery trains even Elvis would have trouble catching up with. 

There’s also a gospel vibe to Neilson’s flame searing voice, heavily indebted to Mavis Staples who she pays tribute to in “Sister Mavis” howling “Make me moan, make me cry/stand up and testify.” Things take a turn to the Dixie Cups’ New Orleans “Iko Iko” percussion for Neilson’s “Queenie, Queenie,” a sympathetic examination of the frustrations experienced by both stay at home moms and those on the road doing one-nighters to make ends meet. Then it’s time to strap yourself in when she lets loose on a goose-bump raising torcher for the slower bluesy “You Were Mine” as she rasps the title of the song to close it out. On “Ten Tonne Truck” there is even a bit of T. Rex glam in her stride when she recounts what may be the story of her life singing “Drove with nothing but our clothes and guitars right down to Nashville/Gonna be big stars.”   

Neilson hasn’t quite made it there yet (and we talked with her about that), but with the dynamite CHICKABOOM!, arguably her finest, most explosive release, and a fiery live show that enhances the already vivacious strut of these songs, there’s no stopping Tami Neilson now. Get on board and tell all your rockabilly, country and soul loving friends there’s a veteran, larger-than-life, rocking diva in town and she’s as real a deal as they come.

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