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Lindi Ortega

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Lindi Ortega at Islington Assembly Hall, 4th February 2016 by Lesley Hastings

It is not unheard of for artists to use quirkiness as an gimic, often manufacturing a look/attitude to gain media attention and/or to detract from lack of talent, but with Canadian born Lindi Ortega quirkiness is genuinely a large part of who she is, what makes her tick and helps inspire her songwriting. Just one of the reasons I rate her, love listening to her music and watching her perform live, she is refreshingly different and original in many respects. And her quirkiness definitely isn’t there to make up for lack of talent, with four studio albums now under her belt and the latest offering, ” Faded Gloryville ” receiving much critical acclaim on its release last August (recorded over three separate sessions, producers include ex-Civil Wars John Paul White and the legendary Dave Cobb who also produced her previous “Tin Star” album). Her vocals are always from the heart (her vibrato often attracting comparisons to Dolly, Patsy and Loretta) whether on her original tracks which range from rockabilly-inspired up-tempo numbers to plaintive Americana-style ballads, or her reinterpretation of other’s work (who would expect to hear a Bee Gees composition covered by a country artist? But it works really well!) She can appear both feisty and vulnerable, I love that dichotomy!

Heading to see her for the third time live here in the UK, this venue was by far the largest I had seen her play and whilst not a sell-out show (apart from the 200 seated balcony area) there was a really good turn out, testimony to her growing popularity. Taking to the stage dressed in her trademark black (apart of course from her red cowboy boots, and lipstick to match) she surprised me by singing three songs before reaching for her guitar… During these opening numbers (and at the other times throughout the evening when she put down her instrument) she moved freely around the large stage, dancing and interacting with the three band members she had brought along for this tour (bass, lead guitar and drummer) quite often with her back to the audience. Indeed, there were times during her set, I felt I was gate crashing a private party for the four of them (an observation, not necessarily a criticism as I love to see such a great bond between musicians). Reaching for her guitar for the first time, she touchingly dedicated “Angels” to Terry Wogan, who she said was ” very kind to me when we met” (her banter between songs was kept to a minimum, she comes across as rather shy, even insecure, in comparison to her confidence when singing and she admits to having had feelings of self doubt and learning from her struggle). Her longest introduction was when speaking about “Faded Gloryville”, explaining that it was a concept that came to her after repeatedly watching the movie “Crazy Heart” and in particular the opening scenes which feature Jeff Bridges as a drunk, washed up country singer. She said the song is often misinterpreted as meaning she is disappointed with life, when in fact the opposite is the case and she feels both blessed and honoured.

Not surprisingly, Lindi’s 90 minute set included nearly all the tracks from her latest release, interspersed with several from her previous albums and a few covers, and her vocals were as impressive as ever. As mentioned earlier, she sings with fantastic emotion and I must admit I would have liked to hear a couple of acoustic numbers to further showcase her vocal ability and to mix things up a bit (she did in fact sing the first verse of “Hard as This” acoustically, which was magical, before the band joined in for the remainder of the song, not that I want to imply that her musicians were any less than wonderful!). Highlights for me were “Ashes” and “I Ain’t the Girl” along with my favourite of her compositions, “Cigarettes and Truckstops” . Her covers are always interesting reworkings of the originals, and on this occasion included ” To Love Somebody ” (to my knowledge the only cover she has recorded) and a reggae-fied version of ” Bring it on Home” which was the first of the three song encore along with Tin Star (“a song for the underdogs in the music world” ) and her incredible version of “Ring of Fire” which I never tire of hearing and which seems to be her trademark closing number these days.

Unfortunately I had to dash to catch a train so was unable to meet Lindi after the show, but my friend managed to get her to sign a set list that I had “acquired” and said what a lovely lady she was. I am really happy that this hard working musician is getting the success and recognition she deserves both sides of the pond, her originality is a breath of fresh air and I am interested to see what the future holds for her.


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