In the winter months my musical preferences veer heavily towards the quiet and introspective. Living in Scotland means I have to spend a lot of time indoors due to the weather so I often search out soothing albums that can soundtrack lazy afternoons of reading or writing like the recent releases from Bonny Light Horseman and Isobel Campbell, for example.
At the end of last year I had listened to some preview tracks from this new Tami Neilson album and really enjoyed them but as time for release date came my mood didn’t really match up to returning to such a style of music. Blame my hesitancy on seasonal affective disorder, rather than anything to do with the artist themselves.
Yesterday I looked outside and finally there she was, the dear old sun and even a blue sky. Okay so it was still fucking freezing but I decided this was the opportunity to blow the cobwebs off and take CHICKABOOM! outside with me for a walk.
My favourite walking route is around Arthur’s Seat (an old dormant volcano in Edinburgh) so I head that way and press play. From the opening notes of Call Your Mama the album’s energy is infectious. She sings about having had enough of an idiotic man wasting her time. I turn my face up towards the sun and smile, sharing the joy she feels when you’ve finally got the junk out of your life.
After that Hey Bus Driver! kicked in and this classic rockabilly style gets me moving quicker, as though there really is no summit I can’t climb. I walk the pavement that leads up and around the hill, and Ten Tonne Truck comes on just as I hit the sharper incline. It’s ‘work a little harder’ refrain is particularly inspiring for my heavy legs. The song is about trying to make it, the challenges faced and the hope that this time you might find the success you deserve. It might be just a little bit of fun but it does underline the fact that a talent like Tami deserves to be more widely heard, that’s for damn sure.
On ‘Queenie, Queenie’ she sings about being a working mother, encouraging herself not to drop the ball, to keep hustling for whatever she can. There’s a dig at country radio, which is deserved even if an artist like Neilson is not aiming entirely for that genre, such is the variety of her musical style. As the songs plays I look up and see walkers ahead of me, off the beaten path to the real summit above the road. I might not be able to reach those heights but I remind myself that my own journey is worth walking all the same.
This part of the hill is pretty exposed so I batter through some brutally cold winds and the roar of ‘You Were Mine’ helps me along nicely. Here you get the full impact of her incredible vocals, like a mix of Tina Turner and Aretha. Songs like 16 Miles of Chain have a vintage rock and roll spirit to them too, while Tell Me That You Love Me is a blistering paced rockabilly blast.
I turn round the corner towards the sheltered, sunlit part of my walk as the album’s softer moment Any Fool With A Heart begins. This sounds like a lost Everly Brothers song, a sublime shuffle across the dance floor of time. The energy never slumps for a second (hers not mine) with Sister Mavis roaring me towards the end of my walk. Neilson honours her influences and does a damn fine job of emulating them too.
As Sleep begins I start my descent, shadows stretch across the road and lead me back down towards the city. Her soothing voice mixes with the wind and the sound of birds overhead. Sometimes you need to sleep the winter through to find yourself again. A lullaby like this can be just as sweet to wake up to.
So yes by the end of the walk I had successfully emerged from my hibernation with renewed spirit and maybe even an added dose of sass in my step, thanks to Tami’s great songs, force of personality and mindblowing vocal talent. I look forward to it soundtracking many more, hopefully warmer, walks in the future.