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.
I Can Forget is a grief-stricken companion piece, another tribute to her late father and to Canada’s Neilson Family Band in which Tami cut her teeth – at age 10 she once opened for Kitty Wells. She still co-writes with her brothers. She knows her industry, and fires several broadsides against its patriarchy here, among them a title track that overreaches its cinematic ambitions, its style in sharp contrast to the angry thrash of Mama’s Talkin’ and the proto-rap of Careless Woman. She delivers a capsule autobiography in similar bare-bones fashion on King of Country Music, and a women-empowering croon on Baby, You’re a Gun. The Kiwi queen remains an imperious talent.