Tami Neilson: Kingmaker review – the queen of Kiwi country at her imperious best

·1 min read

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.

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