The challenge to understand and interpret the style of Lindi Ortega is a fruitful mission for music connoisseurs as she continues to unveil a wealth of optimum material. Her third release TIN STAR wooed critics at the tail end of last year and on the evidence of this performance, the live show has taken a significant step forward. With a similar size gig twelve months ago as the benchmark, Lindi succeeded in raising the stakes in her own inimitable way. There is an appealing complexity to her style that ranges from a little dark to a degree of musical orthodoxy. The left field undercurrent that guides her interpretation of country music is purely for the open minded but the virtue of her song writing and simplistic approach to musical arrangement has created a special talent.
The hiring of Champagne James Robertson to undertake accompanying guitar duties and the addition of Alex Cox on percussion enhanced the sound production along with a switch of location for this tour from the Hare and Hounds pub to an annexe at one of the city centre’s more corporate venues. A far more numerical turnout reflected the growing appeal of Lindi who possesses an endearing yet slightly eccentric vibrancy. This is certainly a key element to her creativity which extends from significant auto biographical song writing to some inspiring versions of standard songs.
The fairly evenly spread set list reflected the three releases with a biased opening towards the newer material led by ‘Hard as This’ but ultimately defined by the struggling musician tale ‘Tin Star’. The Americana fuelled journey took us deep into Louisiana with the electrifying ‘Voodoo Mama’, while she reverted to vocals only, leaving James solo on guitar, for the excellent ‘Waitin’ on my Luck to Change’.
‘Desperado’ and ‘I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry’ are far from radical choices for cover songs but the jaw dropping approach Lindi adopted to them, especially the Hank Williams classic, fully justified their inclusion. A lesser known song by fellow Canadian artist Timber Timbre ‘No Bold Villain’ made an appearance in the encore and there was a general consensus that it perfectly suited her style. While covers can spice up a set list, the true judgement of a serious song writing artist lies in the original material.
If Lindi Ortega took the unlikely route of giving up her lifelong obsession with making music, we would be still left with a song which has all the hallmarks of being a developing classic. The Birmingham audience had to wait until the encore to hear her outstanding romance inspired road song and this evening’s version of ‘Cigarettes and Truckstops’ put a strong marker down for the year’s outstanding live track. As well as satisfying evocative mood numbers, Lindi is equally adept at sweeping away any January blues with ‘Bluebird’ inviting some audience participation and ‘The Day You Die’ lubricating a few limbs. Another noteworthy song on the evening was ‘Ashes’ which sadly appears to have no recorded version.
There is no doubt that corporate eyes will glance in Lindi’s direction as she continues to cement her move from Toronto to Nashville but ultimately it is likely that her fiercely independent free spirit will prevail. This scenario will lead to many smiling faces from those mission-led to scratch the surface for country, roots and Americana talent. Lindi Ortega is a true enigmatic treasure to savour.
Set List: Hard as This. All My Friends. Waitin’ on my Luck to Change. Tin Star. Voodoo Mama. Desperado. Ashes. Demons Don’t Get Me Down. I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry. Lived and Died Alone. Bluebird. The Day you Die Encore: Cigarettes and Truckstops. No Bold Villain. Little Lie