2014 CD REVIEW
TIN STAR (LAST GANG-COOKING VINYL)
INDIE LINDI WEAVES GYPSY DREAMS
“When I was just a little girl/ I had the biggest dreams/ took me from Toronto all the way to Tennessee/ daddy said to sing it loud, go on and make your momma proud/ be what your went to be, when I bust out of my cage/ boy you should have seen me fly/ I ain't into keeping secrets and watching life go by/ I got the whole world at my feet/ I skipped along to my own beat/ that's just how I survive.” - Gypsy Child - Lindi Ortega.
When Canadian chanteuse Lindi Ortega left Toronto for Nashville she ensured art imitated her life and genetic roots.
The singer, blessed with Irish and Mexican ancestry, soon had more than a few strings to her bow.
It all started at 17 when - after picking up the guitar that hung on the wall of the family home - she wrote Faded Dress that she described as "the first in a long line of heartbreak songs".
It was about her first boyfriend dumping her the day before the prom.
"I wrote about the dress hanging in the closet that never got worn. It was sad, but I thought it would be better the next year. But nobody asked me."
After two indie Canadian albums and EPS dating back to 2007, Ortega signed with Last Gang Records in 2011 and cut three albums distributed in Australia by Cooking Vinyl .
Her debut disc, The Taste of Forbidden Fruit , was released in 2001 - her song Nothing At All was used in the online campaign for the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty.
In late 2005 Ortega began road testing her second album released on February 6, 2007.
"People kept pushing and prodding and finally I saw the light," Ortega confessed.
In 2007 Ortega collaborated with Juno Award winning producer Ron Lopata - he produced her two EPs and occasionally tours with her as her keyboardist.
After being signed to Cherrytree-Interscope Records in August 2008 Ortega released her second EP, The Drifter.
She toured with Noah & the Whale in 2008, played the 2009 SXSW festival in Austin , Texas , and opened for Kevin Costner & The Modern West's tour in July.
Her next album and song, Little Red Boots , are named after her signature red boots that she got while on tour with Costner and his band.
During 2010 and 2011 she toured as backup singer for Brandon Flowers, lead singer of The Killers , in support of his solo album, Flamingo .
It included dates in the U.S. , U.K. , Germany , France , Italy , Spain and Mexico , with live cameos on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and Jimmy Kimmel Live!
She also played major festivals including Coachella and in 2012 was nominated for two Canadian Juno Awards - New Artist and Roots & Traditional Album.
ROCKET SHIPS HANG ON CONSTELLATIONS
“If you need space, take a trip/ hijack you a ride on a rocket ship/ hang on with some constellation/ get yourself some isolation, babe.” - Hard As This - Lindi Ortega.
And, now on her fifth album, she has plenty of vibrant vignettes to tear from her recent and not recent back pages and toss into the blender that spits out credible narratives.
She delivers a healthy hybrid of roots country and rockabilly on 11 original songs on this rollicking sequel to Cigarettes & Truckstops.
“My mom calls me a gypsy child because she says I'm always just going from city to city," Lindi revealed of one of her song sources.
" Gypsy Child is an ode to her and an appreciation of the support I get from people who love me and understand what I do. They accept that this is my path. I wind up in these places where I seemingly shouldn't fit and I end up fitting.”
Ortega grew up listening to her mother's country records and immersed herself in her father's Mexican heritage including the work of painter Frida Kahlo.
"But it kind of speaks to my entire existence. I was definitely a square peg in a round hole when I was in high school,” Lindi recalled.
“My biggest inspiration is Johnny Cash. I think he's unmatched as an artist who commands respect from all different genres of music, from hip-hop to rock to punk to metal. So maybe subconsciously by looking up to someone like that leads me to the places where I've ended up, like this summer when I did the Ramones cover with Tim Armstrong from Rancid . I love Townes Van Zandt. I think he's a great songwriter. I love Leonard Cohen, I love Neil Young, I love Kris Kristofferson, Waylon, Merle Haggard, Hank Williams.”
On Tin Star she nails her sail to a rocket ship metaphor on dream driven Hard As This that kicks off her disc spaghetti western style and segues into another autobiographical aspirant tale Gypsy Child .
TIN STAR BEAT UP AND RUSTY
“Boy you don't know me, I'm a nobody/ singing on the strip for a few pennies/ I got a busted string and broken guitar/ been singing for tips down at the local bar/ like an old tin star I'm beat up and rusty/ lost in the shining stars of Nashville Tennessee/ Well I wrote this song for those who are like me.” - Tin Star - Lindi Ortega.
Ortega's dreams crashed to earth on the Music City barrio of broken dreams on the melancholic title track.
It's a highly competitive scene in the most lucrative mecca in the western world where big fish from little ponds suddenly find themselves swimming well out of their depth with other minnows and carnivorous sharks.
Lindi doesn't reach for the blade, bottle, needle or spoon - she picks up her acoustic guitar and writes.
The singer shares her frustrations in a song that paints a bleak picture but is also the cheapest tear stained therapy with its own gold at the end of the inland rainbow and midnight rodeo.
"That song, which is also the first single, speaks to the parallels of living in a city much like L.A. with its boulevard of broken dreams," Ortega says.
"I was lucky in a way because I didn't come here looking for a record label or agents or anything like that. I had my team together, so I came here for inspiration really, and because of the history. All of my heroes have a lot of history in this city, so it was important for me to be where the action was and absorb that."
She also retrieves her guitar on Gypsy Child and This Is Surreal while producer Dave Cobb provides electric guitars as he did on his studio strolls with Shooter Jennings.
“I think every album is an evolution and it's an exploration of the genre of music that I do, which is a mix of blues and folk and rockabilly and rock,” Ortega revealed.
“It's always mixing it up, it's always delving into different territories of those things that I love. I worked with producer Dave Cobb who's worked with Rival Sons and Jason Isbell.”
She also mixes mood swings with a flourish on Satanic majesty of I Want You , penned with Cobb
Ortega recharges her batteries on the turbo tonking trip to New Orleans on Voodoo Man but jams the brakes on funereal Lived And Died Alone .
CATS AND SURREAL SURVIVAL
“All these cats keep staring me down/ trying to run me right out of this town/ gotta do what I can to survive, the music is the only thing keeping me alive." - All These Cats - Lindi Ortega.
"I'm not intimidated by those guys in black suits staring me down at showcases, because I know through touring my last two records that there is an audience out there," Ortega says.
"I think that radio at some point needs to come around and start realising that when an odd thing breaks through, it's not an anomaly. I look at people like Kacey Musgraves, who's straddling the worlds of country, pop and alternative, and she's up against Taylor Swift for Female Vocalist of the Year at the CMA s. If you give more chances to artists like her, it won't be considered an anomaly anymore."
“Little red boots and a little black dress/ for every occasion I'm wearing my best/ when the curtains close and the lights go down/ I'll still be singing when no-one's around.” - Songs About - Lindi Ortega.
Ortega credits her work ethic for her survival and success.
“If you want to get into the music industry, be prepared to work your ass off.” Ortega says.
“It's a very tough industry, and you have to be involved very much, and you have to sacrifice other areas of your life. You have to be full-on, and I think the main reason for doing this kind of career is that it's got to be out of love; you've got to love what you're doing every night. For artists like me who aren't on major labels, it's all about winning one fan over at a time. I have to work very hard to do that, and I'm happy to work that hard because I love what I do. But I think if I didn't love what I do, then it could be annoying just because there is so much travel and there's really little time for anything other than music. Lucky for me, I'm a lover of making music.”'
Ortega is inspired by fellow Canadians including Corb Lund and Daniel Romano.
Ortega's fitting finale is Songs About where writing is tuneful therapy for a troubadour who rides alone down that not so mythical Lost Highway .
“I usually write from my own experiences and my own perspectives, so a lot of what I write is real,” Ortega explained.
“I love outlaw country. I think outlaw country sort of led the way to make it okay for people to talk about those things. I love people being forthright with their music and I endeavour to do the same thing with mine. So I talk about it.
CIGARETTES AND TRUCKSTOPS
“I'm gonna board this greyhound and ride it all the way down to L.A/ you see I'm missing you like crazy and I can't stand to be so far away/ cigarettes and truck-stops remind me of you when I pass them by/ and my mama always told me ‘hold on to the good things that you find'/ so I guess I gotta tell ya that I'm coming out to meet you/ that I really gotta see you one more time/ I'd rather have you still beside me/ than have you always running through my mind/ Oh look out California, I'm coming for my lover's heart tonight.” - Cigarettes And Truckstops - Lindi Ortega.
Ortega credits Hank Williams for the inspiration for her breakthrough album, Cigarettes And Truckstops.
“I was reading the Hank Williams biography and it was really interesting stuff,” Ortega recalled.
“The book I was reading was called Lovesick Blues , and I was just fascinated by it because it was really giving me this great information about early country music. I discovered that Hank was influenced by a man named Tee Tot, also known as Rufus Payne, and Tee Tot was a blues musician. I just started to see that there was a real connection between early country and blues music, so I started listening to a lot of blues music, and really got into the old Robert Johnson, Leadbelly, Lightning Hopkins, John Lee Hooker and all that kind of music. I was listening to it for a good long time, and then I noticed as I was writing songs that it had a bit of an impact on the songs that I was writing. I started seeing sprinklings of the blues popping up in my melodies and chord progressions.”
And the title?
“Well, that particular song was inspired by a tour romance that I encountered,” Ortega confessed.
“I've been touring so much since Little Red Boots came out, so I'm always on the road and the only chance for me to really meet people is when I'm out there touring. Of course, it's like a ship's passing in the night kind of thing with those kind of romances. So often times, you meet people who aren't in your city, don't live anywhere near you, or maybe aren't even in your country, and you end up missing them immensely after you create these close bonds. That's a song about reminiscing the road times we shared together, the romance, and really deeply missing that person. It's really a love song, I think. It's not a heartbreak song, it's a love song and a nostalgia song. I just decided to name the record that because every time I walk passed those two things, I'm reminded of the tour, and I thought it would be a good name for a record. I thought it would be an interesting title.”