Reviewed by Harry Kaplan
Another album with a very high listenability index. The music is blues based, but contains a lot of buried treasures in addition to blues. There is an ubundance of vocal styiling, Vaudeville, burlesque, and some Caribbean influence. It’s Koko Taylor, meets Tom Waits, meets Harry Belafonte. Tami has a very strong and sultry voice which is perfectly suited for the songs on Sassafrass!
This Canadian native by way of New Zealand is a throwback to performers from a bygone era. It shouldn’t be a thing of the past and Tami is working to change that. There was a time when the lines between country music and the standards crossed paths. Artists like Ray Charles, James Brown, and Dean Martin have all dabbled in country music. And have also done a good job to make the genres bleed over somewhat. That is what adds to musical experimentation and growth and that is what Tami does at a consistently high level.
This is not yesterday’s music, this is definitely today’s music. It is just presented in a very beautiful and classic package with vintage wrapping paper. But the gift is actually quite new and very vibrant. There is still a prize in this box of Crackerjacks. The prize for me is A Woman’s Pain (Track 4). This song pays homage to the female-sung country ballads in the 70s and also some very spacey and psychedelic fiddle and guitar parts. Simply serene.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the tongue in cheek number entitled Bananas (Track 2). It sounds like a song that would be played when a Congo line breaks out in the Bahamas. The lyrics are very clever and quite funny. Tami compares certain fruits to eh, um body parts. Not too hard to figure out which fruit belongs to which part….You get the idea. It is a very fun song which addresses the unfair perceptions of women. She cleverly sneaks some heavy lyrics in a seemingly, easy going happy song. Well done.
Tami also reveals her versatility to sing like the great crooners of a few generations ago. Her pipes, swagger, and seductive qualities give her some real street cred when it comes to the great performers in the 40s and 50s. The one song on this collection that truly captures that atmosphere is One Thought Of You (Track 6). If it had a few pops and warbles, you would think this was released 50 years ago. But no, this is 2018!
Tami Neilson may not be a household name in the United States, but that is about to change. Sassafrass! has the “it” factor and rocket fuel to lift Tami up. Tami is doing the rest with her lovely singing voice and complete ease in front of a microphone. The people are ready for some original, home made music and Tami Neilson delivers.