Thursday, 28 February 2013

Lindi Ortega - Hare and Hounds Kings Heath Birmingham Wednesday 27th February 2013

©Ian Dunn ©Principlephotography
Every now and again the intelligentsia of the UK music press pluck a talented artist from the fringes of the Nashville mainstream country scene and expose them to an unsuspecting audience who are not necessarily avid consumers of this style of music. Following hot on the heels on the impact of Caitlin Rose a couple of years back, attention is currently focussing on Canadian singer-songwriter and guitarist Lindi Ortega, a performer who seems at one with what she’s striving to achieve.

Despite the growing national radio airplay, this current tour remains low key thus ensuring Lindi has the opportunity to connect with her ever increasing list of admirers. The candlelit tables at the Hare and Hounds may have been more akin to the gentler performers who play the venue but the engulfing dry ice added to the mystique of the journey Lindi and her sidekick guitarist, introduced simply as Tom from Canada, was about to take the audience on.

The real life journey of Lindi originated as a stalwart of the Toronto indie scene before heading south and the calling of Music City. Nashville may be her current home but musically the ride can take you anywhere. This is best epitomised by the outstanding ‘Cigarettes and Truckstops’, one of the best road songs to emerge in recent years. Its mid- set inclusion on the evening had the desired effect of vividly imagining the heartfelt emotion of that trip all the way to LA. Its airing along with the accompanying electric twang was an anticipated highlight that didn’t disappoint.
Over the duration of the evening, the sultry vocals got better and gradually she drifted towards her musical soul with the iconic Memphis ‘Sun’ sound becoming more prevalent. Eventually she would immerse herself into two interpretations of the Man in Black’s work, with a slowed down ‘Ring of Fire’ and slightly clichéd ‘Folsom Prison Blues’ but not before a detour to New Orleans and an interesting version of the ‘House of the Rising Sun’. As an artist who holds a candle for the female country pioneer, it was no surprise to hear a tribute to one of them and on this occasion ‘Making Believe’ a song made famous by Kitty Wells, enthralled the audience.

©Ian Dunn ©Principlephotpgraphy
However, Lindi is much more than a traditional country revivalist, with her two most recent albums bulging with updated songs that aim to take this music forward. From her 2011 album LITTLE RED BOOTS we were treated to ‘All My Friends’, ‘Bluebird’ and the delightful ‘Angels’. The title track was not originally on the set list but Lindi and Tom improvised to an audience request.
Lindi chose ‘Demons Don’t get Me Down’ from the latest album CIGARETTES AND TRUCKSTOPS to open the show, a release that contained possibly the highlight of the evening in the wonderfully haunting ‘Heaven Has No Vacancy’. This exceptional and highly recommended album was also represented by ‘The Day You Die’, ‘High’ and ‘Every Mile of the Road’.

With a stage presence developed in the more raucous venues of North American cities, Lindi is not the first artist to be a little unnerved by the attentive silence of a UK audience but was keen to bond with her trademark meet and greet hugs and was appreciative of her mid-set refreshment kindly delivered via the bar’s top shelf. However it is the edge she brings to her music and a desire to challenge the boundaries of country music, yet still remaining true to the ethos of the genre, that is most appealing.
 The music intelligentsia may or may not keep Lindi Ortega on their radar but for the committed fans in the know, she is set to remain a firm favourite in their hearts and hopefully we can look forward to more releases and an increased commitment to visit the UK.

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