We’re all used to the UK being somewhat behind the times when it comes to the Antipodes what with them celebrating New Year when we’re just getting out of our beds on 31st December. Well, in the case of Dynamite! we’re several months behind as this album was released in New Zealand around a year ago but is only now getting a UK release. Tami Neilson is garlanded in NZ, winner of their version of the Grammies on four occasions plus several song writing awards, not bad for a Canadian girl who grew up as part of her family’s country/gospel road show before moving down under after marrying a New Zealander.
Anyway, Dynamite! is a dynamite album, retro tooled from the cover art to the music to capture the bygone era of Sun Records and gutsy singers such as Wanda Jackson and Patsy Cline as Neilson delves into rockabilly, country and soul with some panache, a down under Imelda May indeed. The ten songs here are all top notch. Neilson can sound ferocious, sultry, sassy or menacing as required while the band and production nail the sound. Big boned guitars, velvety pedal steel and rattling percussion with country fiddle here and there are all bundled up in a glorious noise that reeks of valves and old time radio broadcasts.
The album opens with the defiant clarion call of Walk (Back To Your Arms) with Neilson walking on the wild side as she defies family wisdom and goes back to a bad boy’s embrace. With its bluesy riff and sinister guitar it evokes images of lurid pulp fiction covers of the fifties. Come Over is a thrash of a song that is like a shot of adrenaline to the soul amplifying the likes of Brenda Lee to the nth degree. The following Texas is a reprieve as Neilson shifts into country mode with ease, the song a brilliant recreation of early sixties honky tonk country music and there’s more country on the loose limbed Honey Girl which has some rootsy fiddling and excellent fingerpickin’ guitar. Whiskey and Kisses is another country song but here we’re in saloon bar territory as Neilson is joined on vocals by guitarist Delaney Davidson for a tearstained lament in the best George & Tammy tradition. Neilson shares vocals again with Davidson on the dramatic Running To You which is a driving romantic narrative in the vein of Lee Hazlewood and Nancy Sinatra or Calexico on The Ballad of Cable Hogue and which sends shivers up the spine. As if this were not enough Neilson offers up some tin pan alley/Brill Building melodrama on the beehived and pizzicato pop song that is Cry Over You. It would be remiss not to mention the title song which is in a similar vein to Walk (Back To Your Arms) but here the guitar really sparks and burns as the drums pound and Neilson sings with a vengeance. Absolutely brilliant.