Lindi Ortega – Liberty
By Nick Jarman
Lindi Ortega is one of the very finest writers and artists that I have had the privilege of listening to an getting to know through her music. It’s hard not to be spellbound by an artist with such a fine voice and the artistry to match it with records like ‘’Little Red Boots’’ an ‘’Tin Star’’. ‘’Liberty’’ is a great departure from everything she’s done previously, with the record much more of a concept album, inspired by spaghetti Westerns and Tarantino. The record is all about an aesthetic, a mood conjured by the musical style as well as the lyrics and vocals.
The slight irony in the record is that between ‘’Faded Gloryville’’ and ‘’Liberty’’ she moved home to Canada, and so this very Western concept has emerged from a Geographic location that couldn’t be much more different. It is clear that she has not been confined creatively, and a move away from stifling Nashville is only a good thing, because this is a phenomenon that you wouldn’t find coming from Music City.
Not only is the record very much a Western love letter, but it is also introspective, as we have come to expect from Lindi. On the first vocal track ‘’Afraid Of The Dark’’ we see this, with the recurring lyric ‘’Daylight never comes, once I love someone, don’t come any closer to my heart, if you’re afraid of the dark’’. What a fantastic opening this makes, with the western-style instrumentation being turned on its head to complement this moody, dark, desolate vocal. Indeed, the next track ‘’You Ain’t Fooling Me’’ is a classic revenge song with grungy backing and a choppy, harsh refrain to complement the smooth verses, much like a snake might slither gracefully before striking.
‘’Nothing’s Impossible’’ is a real highlight of the album opening. What Lindi does better than anyone in her writing is paint an incredibly vivid picture. With this Western-style song this is particularly stark, particularly withstanding the mourning tone, pleading for the return of her man. With reference to her putting on her ‘’white linen dress’’ and ‘’laying him to rest’’ it conjured the image of the spectral figure of a woman in mourning, wearing her wedding dress out of a deluded grief, much like one might see in the movies.
The lead single of ‘’Liberty’’ was ‘’The Comeback Kid’’ which injects a bit of Spaghetti Western fun into proceedings. One can almost imagine a comic reel with this musical background, including the emphasis on ‘’POW’’ and ‘’SMACK’’ as the hero battles the villain, in this the Comeback Kid against those who put her away. Again, the story and imagery conveyed in the music and lyrics are fantastic, and really encapsulates what this record is all about.
‘’Liberty’’ really comes into its own in the latter half, where melody and atmosphere dominate the music, with some of Lindi’s finest ever work displayed deep in this record. ‘’In The Clear’’ is beautiful, stripped back and focusses very much on her perfect vocals. It very much brings to mind some of her previous work in the melancholy writing, sparse instrumentation and slow melody, and amongst a record with a lot of interesting musical choices, it is refreshing, and serves to separate the beginning, middle and end of the record.
This is a record of catharsis, moving through the early despair and heartbreak of loss, moving through the wasteland into a rich love story featured in ‘’Pablo’’, ‘’Lovers In Love’’ and finally freedom in ‘’Liberty’’ and ‘’Gradias A La Vida’’. There are hints of Spanish in the love song ‘’Pablo’’, whilst the whole of ‘’Gradias’’ is sung in Spanish. Not only does this add considerable texture to the vocals, but completes the transition from the heartbreak and focus on the cowboy protagonist in Lindi’s story, to the softer love story focused on the unseen, fringe characters in the Western film.
Records that tell a story are the sign of good artistry and this is the finest I have heard for a long time. Every song has its place, and mustn’t be listened to out of order, although each one is great in its own right as well. Lindi has mused on Twitter about making this record into a Broadway show, with tongue-in-cheek I suspect, but the story and imagery as so powerful in ‘’Liberty’’ I don’t think the idea is that off-base. I can only recommend this record. Niche it may be, not for background music, but it is one hell of a fine record.