From the first note you know Tami Neilson has created something special. Crafted out of grief and love, Neilson’s latest album is for her father, Ron, who passed away earlier in 2015, and whose life, talent, and memory weigh heavy on her heart, mind and songwriting. ‘Don’t Be Afraid’ is collaborative, part-written with brother Jay with contributions also from Delaney Davidson. It includes two songs started by her father and finished by Neilson and her brother – the sparse, powerful title track and the Patsy Cline-channeling ballad Lonely, written by Ron and completed by Tami (notable for beautiful vocals from her and guest Marlon Williams). The album’s predominant soul sense is alternated with country, blues and defiance; witness the storming Holy Moses and the raucous vaudeville music-hall Laugh Laugh Laugh, both evangelical and bursting with energy.
Musician collaborators Delaney Davidson, Dave Khan, Ben Woolley and Joe McCallum again give exceptional performances, the production by Davidson and Ben Edwards emphasising the songs’ foundations and Neilson’s extraordinary vocals. Regardless of the grief and feeling present in almost every note she sings, ‘Don’t be Afraid’ is not maudlin, though a sometimes heart-wrenchingly sincere sentiment channeled into the music she shared so closely with her father.