Tami blends country music with traditional Blues, big band Jazz and Soul Music to create a mature and autobiographical sound, telling tales of her experiences on the road to achieving her dream of releasing her own album.
She had an album called ‘Velvet & Steel’ out on the 12th of October on Man in the Moon records and was produced by Bobby Braddock, who has previously worked with Tammy Wynette, Willie Nelson, George Jones and Blake Shelton.
Velvet & Steel takes us on an aural adventure through the blues and soul that grew into rock’n’roll. A journey through the life of Tami, a life of ups and downs defined by the motto: “If at first you don’t succeed…”
It’s the story of a survivor whose life is summed up by its opening track Strong Woman, in the lyric that gives the album its title: “A little velvet and a whole lotta steel.” That’s Tami, a woman who has proved that it’s never too late to chase your dream.
In the early 1990s she went to Nashville to become a star. A young single mum from Oklahoma, alone with a small child to support, she worked full-time and sang in bars and clubs, honky tonks and dives – even on the sidewalk – determined to be discovered one day.
There were obstacles along the way – cancer, divorce and the discovery that she had been adopted – but Tami got through them all with the same resilience you hear when she sings the blues on Velvet & Steel.
Inspired by that same strength and vulnerability in the voices of Patsy Cline and Tammy Wynette, she recorded an album of country music. But her dream was dashed – not by her voice or artistry but by record company politics. Twenty-five years later her album still sits on a shelf, unreleased. “It was crushing to me at the time,” she says. “I felt helpless, shrouded by agony.” But Tami never gave up.
Soul searching, she found fresh inspiration singing R&B in an old-school band, the inspirational music helping heal her heartbreak. Years later she moved to the Far East with her husband. But her musical dream lived on. She sang jazz in hotels in China and blues in a beach bar in Thailand.
That’s where she went back to the songs that she had grown up with – the blues and soul she had heard in her father’s vast record collection. “That was my epiphany,” she says. “I grew up on my dad’s blues, gospel, soul and big-band jazz and I realised that was where my heart lay.”
This led Tami to set about fulfilling her life-long dream of releasing an album. She reunited with veteran songwriter Bobby Braddock – composer of countless country chart-toppers including Tammy Wynette’s D-I-V-O-R-C-E – and some of the city’s famous A-Team musicians who had worked with her 25 years earlier.
Tami and Bobby’s idea was simple: to make a compendium of blues and soul from its origins nearly a century ago right through to the present day. “Bobby and I spent 8 months going through 3,000 songs before settling on the ones I wanted to record,” she says. “Then he picked the musicians – 32 of them in all – to get that classic Memphis soul sound of yesteryear.”
Velvet & Steel is an album that defies download culture to take listeners on a journey, inviting them to start at the beginning and listen to its 13 songs right through to the end. “That’s the way we used to listen to music,” says Tami.
“It’s an album that shows you can find soul in lots of different genres. Soul is what’s inside you. Music is my life and I’ve put it all into this record. I’m not ashamed of who I am or how long it’s taken me to put out my first album.
“A lot of people in my position quit. But I’m proud to be a late bloomer. My dad, who introduced me to music, always told me never to give up on my music or my dreams. And what I want to do more than anything is touch people when I sing.”
The bluesy, ballsy Strong Woman sets the tone for the album’s lyrical theme. “I told Bobby I wouldn’t sing any songs where a woman was the victim,” she explains. “I don’t really identify with those songs, so he went away and wrote this anthem to female empowerment… with a great sax break too!”
Tami delves deep into the past to tackle the Percy Mayfield Orchestra’s soulful 1952 murder ballad The River’s Invitation and bluesman Jimmy Reed’s 1957 classic Honest I Do, complete with a guest spot from harmonica veteran Charlie McCoy.
Joe Babcock’s Maybe Some Day is an anthem about love and acceptance that Braddock first heard half a century earlier and vowed to record only when he found the right singer. Now he has.
“I thought the song was amazing and still so very relevant to all of the problems we are facing today – so prophetic and moving,” says Tami. I had chills in the studio while recording it, thinking of all the monumental historical moments of the last 50 years. It’s very humbling to think we still need to have this conversation.”
Moving forward to the 1970s, Tami dips a toe in the waters of disco with The Sugar Shack, a foot-stompin’ tribute to the era of Studio 54 that has already brought Tami a US hit with a dance remix, and we move further forward with Lovesong, first recorded by The Cure and later reinterpreted to great success by Adele.
There’s a pair of blistering blues-rock songs (Dust Bowl, Bridge To Better Days) by contemporary guitar maestro Joe Bonamassa and two songs by contemporary country singers, Love’s Been Rough On Me by Gretchen Peters and Chris Stapleton and Jay Knowles’ brooding The Cure – the first single from Tami’s album.
A Strong Woman (Bobby Braddock, 2015)
Dust Bowl (Joe Bonamassa, 2011)
The Sugar Shack (Beth Hart and James House, 2013)
The River’s Invitation (Percy Mayfield Orchestra, 1952)
Love’s Been Rough On Me (Gretchen Peters, 1997)
Fly On (Saxon Jones, 2011)
Bridge To Better Days (Joe Bonamassa, 2006)
Lovesong (The Cure, 1989)
Ready To Be Rescued (Deborah Allen, Rafe VanHoy, Kenny Greenberg, 1988)
Honest I Do (Jimmy Reed and Ewart G.Abner, 1957)
Crawlin’ (Dennis Linde, Thomas Cain, 1975)
The Cure (Chris Stapleton, Jay Knowles, 2014)
Maybe Someday (Joe Babcock, 1965)