Great Sounds Great; Bad Sounds Bad: Tami Neilson ‘Walk (Back To Your Arms)’

Tami Nielson

Great Sounds Great; Bad Sounds Bad is a column which sees a panel of writers for The Corner review a range of local singles and grade them out of 10. Check out the song below, read through their opinions and let us know in the comments section your own thoughts and what you’d like to see reviewed next time around.

[YouTube /Bandcamp]

[Grade: 5.4]

Michael Kerby: I’m aware this is completely my problem and my problem alone, but: I just don’t care for this this retro muso nonsense. Don’t care for it. I mean it’s actually quite good, the vocals, the backing vocals, the wiggly guitars — but everyone involved just sounds so fucking pleased with themselves. Carefully turning off their super expensive amps. Nodding to the mixdown on the studio’s leather sofa. Reading their fluff piece in NZ Musician. Scumbags. [5]

Nick Raven: Minimalistic, classic, and emotive are words I use to describe this throwback track by Tami Neilson. I love that surf guitar tone! The song is short and sweet and this gives it a less-is-more effect – I want more by the time it finishes. Brilliant arrangement with the instrumental sections and minimal instrumentation. Tami’s voice is the cherry on top. With the black and white video, its a very tasty track. [8]

Gavin Coughlan: This is a pretty spot-on homage to fifties soul, complete with some doo-wop backing vocals and a nice little steel guitar solo. Tami has got a great voice and obviously loves and understands the genre, but even though I enjoyed the song I can’t help feeling it has been done better before. Still, it’s nice being able to listen to some new Amy Winehouse without having to think of the associated tragedy. [6]

Andrew B. White: Canada has a very healthy Americana, folk and country scene. Having lived there recently I was introduced to many artists that excel at these genres while at the same time bring their own take on the music, above the 48 states of the US. Tami Neilson is a Canadian who now calls New Zealand home and is a three-time winner of “Best NZ Country Album” (a somewhat schizophrenic category of the NZ Music Awards). Recorded in NZ with members of local Americana glitterati, ‘Walk’ harks back to Patsy Cline/Carter Family era complete with low-voice male backing vocals chiming in for maximum effect.

The link I was provided to listen to the song was to the video, which was a somewhat hokey pastiche. I preferred to listen to it without the visuals to for a better appreciation. By itself, the song is a reasonable attempt at capturing the vibe of an era but I felt the delivery was somewhat underwhelming and the subject matter of the song didn’t really translate in a believable way with its fairly ‘trad’ lyrics: “Papa done told me you’re no good, Mama said don’t love ya ‘cause she knew I would”.

If the overall aim of this was simply to present an obvious example of the genre it succeeds, but as an original composition it is fairly pedestrian. The recording process seems to have focused on an equally traditional sound, going for a ‘vintage’ vibe (read: ‘weedy and thin’). 50 or 60 years ago that was the sound but personally in 2014 I would have gone for a hi-fi approach. One that captures the sounds of the instruments and voices better and avoids the above-mentioned ‘pastiche’ feeling. The Americana revivalist scene has been around for a few years now and I’m not sure how much longer has left to run, but I’m sure fans of travelling roadshows to small pubs in places like Lyttleton will like this release a lot. [6]

Chloe Cairncross: Let’s get this out there already – Neilson’s voice is as delicious as the richest caramel. It’s sexy, it’s powerful, and so clearly laden with talent that we do not need to go on and on about it. However, I can never quite get past the fact that “walk, walk, walk” is coupled with “talk, talk, talk” as the most blatantly obvious and tedious rhyme to hook this whole song upon. I know that it suits the simplified twelve-bar blues but, for a voice with such stature, I feel that this song is weak and anchors down Neilson’s potential. [5]

Matt Plummer: Right from the opening bars of ‘Walk’, Tami Neilson leaves us in no doubt that she’s got an impressive set of pipes. Her voice is commanding, her presence captivating – perhaps enough to suggest she might one day be regarded as an antipodean Nancy Sinatra. Featuring contributions from well-known folksters Delaney Davidson and Marlon Williams, the track has much to recommend it, with stripped back, tremolo-laden guitar lines and a simple percussive motif leaving plenty of space for Neilson’s vocals to shine through. There’s no question it’s a pleasant enough listen.

But what does it all amount too? While authentically retro in production, the song is so generic in its musical and lyrical composition that it struggles to rise above pastiche. The vocals are pitch-perfect, they seem impassioned, but due to ‘Walk’s’ conventionality it’s difficult to escape the feeling that these are emotions filtered through a back catalogue of heartache and yearning borrowed from songwriters past. Interestingly, given that the album from which this track is taken is titled Dynamite!, there’s not an explosive, risky or surprising moment to be found on it. [5]

Alex Lyall: People speak only good about Tami Neilson. Judging by this song I’d say that has more to do with the genre than the talent. Despite, or rather because of, her remarkable voice I find myself bored with this. Her best asset becomes her greatest weakness: a voice perfect for the genre. She does not need to bend anything musically to be comfortable, she can just jump straight in there. That creativity would have made it exciting. Instead, a stale collage of whisky bar cliches. The lyrics are proof enough. ‘I’m gonna walk (walk, walk) back to your arms’. Forbidden love! Funny that these rebellious characters are the standard point of view for modern blues songs. Rebellion isn’t rebellion if everyone is doing it. [3]

13 Comments

  1. “Carefully turning off their super expensive amps. Nodding to the mixdown on the studio’s leather sofa. Reading their fluff piece in NZ Musician. Scumbags.”
    Seriously?

  2. yes the word scumbag seems a little out of place for this review maybe use this for politicians or sex offenders but musicians whos only crime is to play in a retro style seems a little harsh or are you talking about the editors of nz musician?

  3. I think it is missing a comma, and is (correctly) proposing that the reader is a scumbag

  4. i think douchebags or something of that nature would have been a better fit. possibly dickheads. jerkoff? dumbarse? drip? scumbag for me sits at the far end of the insult scale for me. perhaps i am out of the insult loop in that regard.

  5. repetitive use of for me apologies.

  6. grogan says:

    mmm when you make music this derivative, its pretty much borderline covers/tribute band material.. all the right sounds with a pastiche of lyrical cliches.. even the artwork.. god, i haven’t cringed so much since the last offering from delaney tom waits davidson.. you’re fucking new zealanders, please drop your american accents, take and overdose of magic mushrooms and spend a week searching your inner soul for a semblance of originality.. maybe then lyttelton, you will realise you are not the 51st state of america

  7. My review got left off for some reason.. no beef :) but I gave it a 2.

  8. Graeme says:

    The Tami Neilson voice is so waiting to let loose on real Rockabilly………..but I can not find any on U Tube. Do a Rockabilly album, send it to Australia and run with Imelda May. Make sure it gets to Perth too.

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