Country singer Tami Neilson (originally from Canada) set the bar high on three previous award-winning albums. But this exceptional outing confirms her gifts beyond country, with five songs co-written with Delaney Davidson who also co-produces with Ben Edwards.
This world-class album is a major statement from an artist at the top of her lyrical and vocal game. One listen to the breathtakingly sad break-up ballad You Lie - the title ambiguous, the music given ringing and weeping steel guitar by Red McKelvie - and the whole hurtful film unravels before your misty eyes. It's poetry about a cheap cheater sneaky enough to not let lipstick stain his collar and the woman smart enough to recognise the deceit.
Here's Neilson taking you into that cold bed after her one-time husband/lover has been "taking out the trash" and she's lying beside the liar. Her final lines are perfect.
Elsewhere she's a convincing Peggy Lee torch singer on the sultry nightclub blues of Walk Back to Your Arms, and for the glorious ballad Cry Over You she locates herself between Patsy Cline and Roy Orbison. All these originals sound like freshly coined classics.
Co-writer Davidson plays Lee Hazlewood/Johnny Cash to her sweetness on the brooding, train-clack rhythm and string-coloured Running to You, and their Whiskey and Kisses is an adult Willie'n'Emmylou tear-stained barroom dialogue which would enhance the career of any Nashville or Austin singer and songwriter. It's extraordinary.
Neilson and Davidson (on his equally exceptional and acclaimed albums) have proved themselves astute lyric writers previously, and here on Running To You we get the economic, "I spent most of my whole life with a bucket and spade, one to carry things I love, one to bury the things I hate". And after that there's more.
Country remains Neilson's core (the Western Swing-styled Texas and others) but this is an album with a wide reach (Fifties rock'n'roll on the partytime Come Over and Woo Hoo, with Marlon Williams is sexy rockabilly-noir), delivering one cracker after another.
Neilson inhabits the characters in these compelling and memorable songs.
Fun, flashy when it needs to be and delivering beautiful brutal truths about life, love and betrayal.
Dynamite in just under 30 minutes.
Neilson's first album solely recorded here has intimate and global impact.
- TimeOut / elsewhere.co.nz